10 Ways Dave Grohl Gave Grief a Chance on Taylor Hawkins Tribute

“Tonight we have gathered with family and his closest friends, his musical heroes and greatest inspirations to give you a gigantic fucking night for a gigantic fucking person.” Dave Grohl said at London’s Wembley Stadium, setting off a brave and emotional public wake to Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Over the next six hours, 50 songs were performed by over three dozen artists from across genres and decades. At the center throughout was Grohl’s personal grief; while no one on stage, backstage, in the crowd or anywhere else felt different, Grohl took the lead every step of the way – and that’s what made the concert so unique.

it’s not often, especially in the 21st century, that so many people are offered or embrace the opportunity to meet like that. Even beyond the tragedy of Hawkins’ death at age 50 it feels like there has been so much to grieve over the past few years. Last night was a music-led catharsis in so many ways. Of course, opinions will differ on the best moments (and may change over time), but here are 10 ways Grohl and the extended Foo Fighters family helped give grief a shot.

“It’s times like these that you learn to live again” was the line Grohl always struggled with the most. Starting “Times Like These” unaccompanied except for a touch of keyboards seems obvious, but no one would have thought badly of him if he hadn’t. It almost looked like him could not does (Rami Jaffee has to take credit for sensitively keeping his chords open and giving Grohl all the time he needed), and that in itself said as much as the words. Almost as soon as the band started, it seemed like a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He looked tired—even exhausted—but he had just won a match.

The final skirmish was to end the show with a solo rendition of “Everlong”, the meaning of its lyrics changed forever as he bid a final farewell to his friend: “If everything could ever feel like this forever / If anything could ever be this good again / The only thing I’ll ever ask of you / You have to promise not to stop when I say when.”

The fact that there was no big encore, just a grateful and familiar bow from everyone who had performed, made the point beautifully: The wake is over; life must go on; and it’s time to go home without the one we lost.

Ever since Wolfgang Van Halen began to build his own career, he has come under pressure to connect with his late father’s work on stage. “I’m not fucking playing ‘Panama’ for you guys,” he said summed it up in 2021. That’s completely understandable – but when he came out to honor old friend Hawkins, it was an opportunity to honor Eddie Van Halen also. The time must have felt right to get hold of what appeared to be the last guitar Eddie used in concert and cover Van Halen the classics “On Fire” and “Hot For Teacher,” with help from Grohl and Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins.

He looked like he couldn’t quite believe he was doing it at one point, as Hawkins held his microphone under the guitar and Grohl, on bass, looked on devilishly with encouragement. After Wolfgang’s success debut Mammoth WVH albummany feel he has nothing left to prove – that number increased dramatically with the point he made via his father’s music as he worked to lay two ghosts to rest.

Grohl, Ulrich, Johnson at Taylor Hawkins Tribute

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It wasn’t clean or pretty, but it was possibly the most rock ‘n’ roll part of the show. AC/DC singer Brian Johnson and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich let it rip with “Back in Black” and “Let There Be Rock” in a set that featured mic and drum problems and a certain amount of technical inaccuracy. But Grohl loved participating, and so did Ulrich — and Johnson, who exhausted himself by never moving throughout, was still laughing as he left the stage. Grohl pointed out that it wasn’t even the end of the show, but it could have easily been left as such.

Queen‘s Brian May and Roger Taylor have of course spent years honoring the lost leader Freddie Mercury. Rush survivor Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson have had less time to process passed of Neil Peart, but that mattered less than the lesson both giant acts illustrated with their sets: The show must go on. Most of the older performers during the show showed a touch of age-and-wisdom attitude; it’s sad but true that those of us who are lucky enough to live long find ourselves in more and more funerals as time goes on. It’s not that people become less affected – it’s that they become more prepared to deal with it. When May walked to the end of the catwalk and asked the audience to help him with a solo “Love of My Life,” he showed an understanding of the moment that made everything just a little bit easier.

They hadn’t played together in 12 years, despite occasional talk about it, but when Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Alain Johannes reconnected with Grohl on stage as You crooked vultures, there was a beautiful ease that showed how they had managed to work so well in the first place. Opening with a lid off Elton John‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ was a surprise that landed brilliantly, while Homme’s comfort fronting the show was remarkably appealing. Meanwhile, Grohl and Jones kept sharing happy looks across the stage. When Johannes blew a kiss to his colleagues as their set ended, it felt just right.

While the former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher‘s trademark swagger was in stark contrast to the Foo Fighters’ stage presence, it was a smart move to have him belt out his old band’s tracks “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Live Forever.” Not only did the titles speak volumes for Hawkins and the point of the night; it also sets the stage for a larger-than-life experience. While it may seem like an odd way to start, in retrospect it’s hard to imagine anything better. Throwing his maracas into the crowd and swaying from the stage, rock star Gallagher was a stark visual representation of what everyone was there to celebrate.

Kesha left everything but the animalistic side of rock behind when she performed T. Rex classic “Children of the Revolution” with Hawkins’ Chevy Metal colleagues. She growled and even squirmed as she did so. While the analogy of a drunk aunt at a family gathering might spring to mind, there was something much more honest and artistic about it. She wasn’t Kesha in those minutes – she was the spirit of angry, sexy, heavy music, and it held up… even if it was in front of the kids.

And of course, the children are always at large family gatherings, practicing “do as I say and not as I do” while their parents kiss and party while settling for soda and candy under the table. Only this was a rock concert. Violet Grohl’s real nerves add an extra beauty to her voice when she covers two Jeff Buckley numbers then performed “Valerie” with Mark Ronson. Oliver Hawkins, Taylor’s son, provided another emotional moment as he expertly hammered out “My Hero” with the Foos; and his youthful exuberance was fun to watch, especially when Grohl had to stop him from speaking through the main mic at the end of the show. Nandi Bushell’s guest spot was another sweet but powerful moment. Homme’s young son running across the stage during the recording of Vultures, then being carried away at the end by his father, was a different style. There were many little reminders that it was a family wake, but seeing the kids in action was among the best.

Considering that Smear was a touring member of Nirvana then Grohl lost Kurt Cobain, it was touching to see how he kept a watchful eye on his old friend as they both dealt with the tragedy repeating itself. Smear almost never stopped smiling, and in the difficult moments he was right next to Grohl. When the end of the show came, his gentle pride and affection for what Grohl had accomplished said so much about why they’ve worked together for so long. That’s to say nothing of Smear’s seamless musicianship throughout the night alongside his fellow Foos.

Concerts with multiple stars can be disastrous, especially backstage. It’s almost impossible for them to run on schedule, and it’s always possible that tempers will flare, leading to more problems. The Hawkins show was notable for being a very smooth production – yes, it ran a little late, but the time was absorbed by the Foos shortening their set, and everything that needed to be played was played. The stage management and all the various crews are to be congratulated.

It’s easy to imagine that things came close to going wrong more often than we’ll ever know, but it’s also easy to imagine that the shared will to make this work brilliantly united everyone in a spirit of professional family. It’s not easy to imagine how the second show, on Sept. 27 in Los Angeles, could be run any better — but times like these will tell.

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