As anticipation of Foo Fighters' return to the live stage grew, speculation was rife about how they would re-introduce themselves, as it were. Fans accepted that there would be a new look and dynamic to the band and were eager to find out if - as they'd done in the past - any warm-up shows or television appearances would softly launch them back into the public arena. The pointed lack of visual promo materials since the announcement of the new music gave no information other than what was strictly necessary. Suddenly, the word passed around, in the midst of the Writers' Guild of America strike, that Foo Fighters had been intended as the musical guest on the season finale of Saturday Night Live. This would have presumably doubled as the reveal of the drummer who would be filling in on their upcoming Summer tour.
Whether it was always on the schedule or a scramble to make a Plan B, a streaming event was announced concurrently with the drop of 'Under You', the second single from the upcoming album But Here We Are. Partnering with Josh Madden's streaming concert platform Veeps, the free presentation given the literal title "Preparing Music for Concerts" promised surprises and behind-the-scenes footage. Filmed in total secrecy, it is believed that the set was pre-recorded on or around May 11, 2023 (also indicated by the absence of a new tattoo on Dave's hand that he very recently acquired).
The pre-show countdown dissolved ten minutes before its scheduled start time into footage of the crew loading into 607, the newer production building attached to Studio 606 West, and setting up their gear, and in the final minutes, teasingly panning across almost every band members' labelled equipment ready and waiting. Right on time, the feed faded in to show Dave, Chris, Pat, Nate, and Rami standing in a room amongst their instruments, with those tuning in quickly realising they were watching from the still-to-be-announced drummer's perspective behind the drum kit. But the band wasn't quite ready yet - they came with jokes. As they shared loosely-scripted banter, they were periodically interrupted by a handful of drummers whose names had been thrown around as potential new recruits, and to keen eyes, they came bearing clues: Chad Smith (white Mercedes), Tommy Lee (P.F. Chang's and a Vandals shirt), and Danny Carey (poodles).
All this goofing off was happening as they ignore the person behind the kit, so when a disembodied voice suddenly piped in, "Excuse me!", they fell silent and turned in unison - cutting to the reveal at last: Josh Freese, wearing a "Hi, my name is Josh" sticker on his shirt, asking when they're going to play something.
And they were off.
The eight-song set acted as a means of shaking off the cobwebs, a substitute for the live secret warm-ups they traditionally did leading up to the beginning of a tour. It also served as a look into the new band dynamic, with the addition of Josh and the promotion of Chris to provide more backing vocals. This change does illustrate how important Taylor's harmonies were to their live shows, and how much extra work will need to be done to round out the sound, if that's what they intend to do. This was most apparent in 'The Sky is a Neighborhood', where the usual grand choruses had less impact, but it is not known at this time if this is how the songs will be performed at future shows. Also absent were the 'Grohlettes', the troupe of backing singers that had been an integral part of the live performances in recent years - it is currently unknown whether they will return for the upcoming dates.
Three songs from But Here We Are were performed: The two singles already released, 'Rescued' and 'Under You', as well as the debut of the track 'Nothing At All' (not to be confused with the Birds of Satan track by the same name). Whether or not this indicates that it is marked as the third single remains to be seen. Going by indecipherable glimpses of the setlist, they had several more songs written down, far more than what they actually played - so it's possible that the original performance was much longer and edited down, or that they were rehearsing those songs for upcoming shows and selected only a few for this event.
The banter for which they've become known and loved is still easily conjured, the relaxed chat in between songs illustrating the natural camaraderie that must surely be of some comfort. The resolve to pick up the threads and accept that a new path must be forged is apparent.
As for what Josh brings to the fold, the band is already giving him plenty of space to add his own flavors, delivering some breakneck solo work and getting into some thrilling to-and-fro with his new bandmates. As a man with his own energy and skills, Josh is there to be Josh, and this event exhibited a few of the many solid reasons why he was their choice.
It is also worth noting that this was not Josh's first turn in the Foo Fighters' drum chair. Way back in the early formation of the band, Josh auditioned for the gig and, according to an anonymous source in Jeff Apter's unauthorised book, was the frontrunner until William Goldsmith got it instead. So it has taken nearly 30 years for this to happen. Talk about playing the long game, Josh!
Viewers naturally wondered if Taylor would be acknowledged in any way during this presentation, and the band waited until the end to tip their figurative hats, with a performance of his favorite Foo Fighters song 'Aurora'. The simple reverence of this gesture marked the only shift in tone throughout the stream, when the otherwise beaming faces dropped in quiet reflection - picking up again to jam together and build the song to an earnest crescendo. If 'Aurora' becomes a setlist mainstay, it is easy to imagine this becoming a moment in the show where band and fans alike collectively pay tribute.
The event ended with the band riffing on what to call the event - variations on "Playin' Some Tunes with the Guys" - before they amused themselves with the matter-of-fact "Preparing for Concerts". They continued to giggle as the screen faded and the credits rolled.
Angled in a way that made viewers feel like we were sitting in on a soundcheck, the no-frills show shot in black-and-white seemed to be a continuation of the monochromatic theme of this album era. It is darkness and light, mourning and hope, two sides of the same coin. As they begin their first set of tour dates and regain their footing, it's inevitable, metaphorically speaking, that the color will return.
- All My Life
- No Son of Mine
- Under You
- The Sky is a Neighborhood
- Nothing At All
- Monkey Wrench
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