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Foo Fighters / Wet Leg, Old Trafford Cricket Ground. 13th June 2024

Foo Fighters better be bloody good to get me in here tonight. There are some undesirable venues for large gigs in this city, but I’m sorry Old Trafford Cricket Ground, you are by far the worst. I don’t know why bands book to play here, please stop it. The shit sound, facilities, access. It’s always the same, snaking up and down barriers in a carpark like you’re in a fucking airport. At least airports tend to be warm and dry. It’s cold, it’s windy, it’s pissing down. It’s also ridiculously early. Foo’s are on at 19:30, meaning it’s going to be a long one, but more of that later. Their early start means that everyone on the bill is shuffled forward and I’ve got zero chance of making it from work to catch the quite frankly most exciting band on the bill, Loose Articles. Before anyone reading this balks at that, I said exciting, not best, they’ve time to get there, but Foo’s undeniably claim that. I’ve no idea if many made it in time to see them. I hope so and I hope they go away tonight captivated by the visceral punk they unleash.

I do make it in for Wet Leg. Not all their set, although I think I catch the start in that godawful shambles getting into this hellhole. Too much, should I cut the venue some slack? Well the sound isn’t horrendous, I’ll give them that. It usually depends on which way the wind is blowing, but it’s in favour of Wet Leg. What a rise they’ve been on. It seems an age since I first saw them in Night & Day, but here we are and they look totally at ease. Most of what I hear is still from that superb debut record. I was hoping for some new stuff and figured this would be the place, but they’re a crowd pleasing bunch and put a real shift in as usual. Word is out about the early start and the sizeable crowd lap it up with limited pisshead chatter. By the time they finish with ‘Chaise Longue’ there’s dancing and quite a bit of singing along.

After dropping a bonkers amount of cash on some greek loaded fries (at least the options are better than they were in Birmingham Arena last week for Smashing Pumpkins), it’s time to find a vantage point. Now here’s the choice, down the front and get kicked around or keep near the back and relax my knee that has flared up at precisely the wrong time before an ultramarathon this weekend. This is where this venue does get one thing right. A standing ticket will also allow you to bag an unreserved seat in the stands. I usually stay on the floor and am unimpressed. So for the first time I head up to the second tier seats and y’know what. It’s alright. There’s a breeze, but despite the rain easing, I’m trussed up in several layers including an industrial grade poncho. I look daft I’m sure, but I assure you there’s some real sights amongst this sold out crowd.

After a mixtape playing everything from Ramones to Tom Petty, it’s time. “Are you ready? It’s gonna be a long night motherfuckers!” Dave the Duracell bunny announces as they smash into ‘Monkey Wrench’.  Not a bad start as they follow with ‘Learn To Fly’. They sound like they always do, tight, fast, loud, like a bunch of blokes who still can’t believe this is their job and are determined to enjoy every damn second. Dave in particular is a big kid, banging out the Motorhead inspired ‘No Son of Mine’. Pat Smear looks absolutely elated too, punching the air during ‘The Pretender’. He knows what’s coming, we like to think that the show we’re at is special, but Pat sees this every night. Entire crowds, big ones, arms aloft in unison screaming “WHO ARE YOU!!!”. It’s beautiful. ‘Times Like These’ follows after Dave apologises for not visiting more often. Honestly fella it wasn’t that long ago since a saw you at The Etihad. Come to think of it I’m sure I had a broken ankle that night. I’m spotting a theme. It turns out it was 2018, my sense of time is shot since lockdown. I could do this every week though. The big change of course is Freese on drums, he reminds me of a punk rock Ken doll as he swaps a cymbal that he’s probably previously destroyed, whilst the Hammond organ flecked intro slowly teases. These songs are made for stadiums, as are this band. They just make sense in crowds this size. The giant screens switch to colour, I’m not sure what this is to signify as we approach the first hour, but they do look pin sharp which isn’t always the case. “We’re gonna play at least one song from every record we’ve made” informs Dave. Which means there’ll be a few deep cuts, like the dark brooding ‘Medicine at Midnight’. If I’ve heard this before, it’s been a while, but it’s really good. Even if I can see the masses drifting toward the bars. Sprawling psychedelic blues is not what you’d expect with Foo Fighters, but this ticks every box for me. It glides right into ‘Walk’ as more of the stage lights spring into action, with the natural light fading. Dave and Chris then decamp to the front of the runway as the pair run through the paired backed ‘Statues’, backed by piano. It sounds lovely, but I’ll admit I’m getting a bit cold now and my mind starts wandering with thoughts of decamping too. Grohl seems like a confident chap doesn’t he, but as he takes on ‘Under You’ on his own with an acoustic, apparently for the first time in front a crowd, he seems genuinely moved by the response, both during and after from an appreciative audience. I’m a way back, but the love is palpable. ‘My Hero’ slowly goes up through the gears, as they prep us for the second half and ‘This is a Call’ takes me back to first seeing them at Manchester Uni in the 90s, hundreds of gigs ago. That was a cracking gig, with The Presidents of the USA supporting! All the talk that tour was whether the drummer from Nirvana should be doing this. Don’t all those naysayers look foolish now. It sounds fucking brilliant, just as amazing as 30 years ago. There was also guffawing at the name he’d chosen, but they lean into their alien moniker tonight with truck abducting UFOs adorning the stage. Rock n Roll is supposed to fun after all. A chill sets in and I catch myself shivering so head back down to the floor for ‘These Days’. The view isn’t as good, but it’s certainly louder and the masses cut the wind down nicely. Plus as Dave points out, it’s stopped raining. This is a stadium gig, so we get the let’s meet the band bit with everyone doing a solo, most successfully Nate on bass who kicks off a cover of ‘Sabotage’, although fair play to Robbie on keyboards with the funky hat who blasts out some luscious Pink Floyd vibes. Smear isn’t to be outdone either, ripping into ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. This stuff is usually dull, but bloody hell this is amazing. Josh Freese taking over from Taylor on drums, goes through a bit of his impressive back catalogue including Devo and NIN. It’s worth the admission just to hear Grohl singing ‘March of the Pigs’! It’s brilliant fun, almost as brilliant as ‘All My Life’ which absolutely bangs and the place goes off. Their energy is quite staggering. New one ‘Unconditional’ predicably cues another mass shift to the bars and toilets. I’ve never understood this. It’s the worst time to go, but large crowds often don’t show much sense. Granted the song is a bit pedestrian, but gigs this size aren’t the best way to judge something you’ve never heard before. ‘Aurora’ as has become customary on this tour is dedicated to Taylor Hawkins. It conjures up vast open vistas, sunshine and hope, I can see why Taylor claimed it as his favourite and it feels like a poignant moment as I’m sure it does every night. Speaking of favourites, ‘Best of You’ isn’t mine, but every time I’ve heard it live it’s caught me off guard, as it does tonight. It twists, turns and flexes as the crowd levels spike. If you’re not loving it, honestly you shouldn’t be here. We’re two and a half hours deep, Dave drops his guitar and lets the feedback ring as he blows kisses to the crowd. It’s not over of course, with little movement on the floor and the “whoa whoa”s filling the void until they return. Dave now indulging his inner Jimmy Page with a double necked guitar for the suitably menacing ‘The Teacher’. It’s as close to straight up metal as they get, which isn’t necessarily is great thing, but it’s a riff monster and Grohl shows he’s got some decent range as it goes a bit Judas Priest. Again it’s not an album I’m as au fait with, but this makes me want to correct that. After Dave’s guitar packs in on the intro to ‘Everlong’, Chris takes care of the riffs for a moment while Dave freed of his guitar prowls with the mic. He’s clearly happier when armed and looks relieved to be handed the fixed guitar back and tears in without missing a beat. This seems to pack it with an extra dose of positive venom as they bring a near 3 hour set to a rousing close. I was apprehensive coming in, but hats off to Foo Fighters, they made the worst venue in Manchester into a joyous party. That really does take some doing. Seriously though, go listen to Loose Articles.


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