While the event was much more a celebration of life than a mournful affair, emotions naturally ran high. That is to be expected given the circumstances. In March, Hawkins’ tragic death sent shockwaves through the music world as fans and fellow musicians alike were stunned by the unexpected loss.
A Rock & Roll Hall of Famer thanks to his work with the Foo Fighters, Hawkins was extremely passionate about music. The drummer regularly formed friendships with other musicians, including those he grew up idolizing. He also mentored younger artists and lent his own knowledge to future stars.
The tribute concert in London offered many moments of humor, happiness, poignancy and sadness. Below, we’ve rounded up seven tear-jerking moments from the incredible show.
Dave Grohl’s opening speech
The Foo Fighters were greeted with a thunderous ovation as they took to the stage to welcome fans at Wembley Stadium, as well as those watching at home. Before Dave Grohl unable to even get a word out, thousands of fans in attendance began chanting “Taylor! Taylor!” causing the front man to take a moment to let the sound wash over everyone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are gathered here to celebrate the life, music and love of our dear friend, our bandmate, our brother, Taylor Hawkins,” a visibly moved Grohl said. “For those of you who know him personally, you know that no one else can make you smile or laugh or dance or sing like he could. And for those of you who admired him from afar, I’m sure , that you’ve all felt the same way. So tonight we’ve gathered family and his closest friends, his musical heroes and greatest inspirations to bring you a giant goddamn night for a giant goddamn person. So sing, and dance, and laugh, and cry and scream and make some damned noise so he can hear us right now.”
Rush Honors Thaw Drum icons
Hawking idolized Neil Peartand was understandably devastated when the Rush drummer died in 2020. As Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson joined Grohl and Greg Kurstin during the tribute concert, they both took note of the late drummer.
“So for Alex and I, it’s a privilege to be up here to play with Super Dave and Greg,” Lee explained. “In 2008, as Dave told you, we got a call from the Foos’ management asking if we would come to the Toronto show and appear so Taylor could play one of his favorite Rush sing with us. We obliged and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. So tonight, in honor of that — and in honor of our own lost brother,” Lee added in a nod to Peart, “we want to play that song.”
The group then rocked through a powerful rendition of “YYZ”.
Brian May conjures the spirit of Freddie Mercury
Queen was one of Hawkins’s greatest influences, and although he eventually became close friends with Roger Taylor and Brian May, the drummer never seemed to lose his sense of fandom for the band. The Queen’s faithful delivered a dynamic five-song set in celebration of Hawkins, with May’s rendition of “Love of My Life” serving as an emotional highlight.
“What an amazing night of love and music – thank you for being here and sharing all these things,” the guitarist declared as he took his seat with his acoustic guitar. “In 1986 we were in this very place, singing this song together, and in 1992, 30 years ago, we said goodbye to Freddie in a style similar to this. So I know Freddie would be happy to share this song in memory of Taylor Hawkins.”
Thousands of people in attendance joined May as he performed the classic Queen ballad, with the guitarist urging them to hold up their mobile phones. “Let’s light up Wembley Stadium for Taylor Hawkins,” the rocker declared, his instructions resulting in a display both stunning and heartbreaking.
Times like these
While the event was riveting from the start, fans were no doubt waiting on pins and needles for the Foo Fighters to perform their own material. The group had not taken the stage together since Hawkins’ death and anticipation was high for their return. The band chose to begin their set with “Times Like These,” the moving tune from 2002’s One by one. The song began in heartbreaking fashion as Grohl, Hawkins’ bandmate and closest friend, struggled through the emotions of the moment. Through tears, the frontman sang the first two verses of the tune, the crowd seeming to lift him up with every word. After the second chorus, Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters let loose, delivering a loud, cathartic second half of the song.
Paul McCartney has certainly dealt with its fair share of personal tragedies over the years, but no one—no matter how successful or honored—ever becomes numb to such a loss. So when McCartney came on stage to join the Foo Fighters for a few songs, the former was Beatle choked to explain what the evening meant to him.
“God bless Taylor,” the icon declared, his voice wavering as he addressed the crowd. McCartney then announced a duet with Chrissie Hynde of Pretenders, who joined him on stage. “Me and Chrissie are going to do a special song here that I haven’t done since we recorded it a hundred years ago. I’ve never done it as a duet. But we’re doing it tonight, for the first time, for you.” The two singers, along with the Foo Fighters, then performed the Beatles classic “Oh! Baby.”
A Different Hawkins takes the spotlight
Most of the drummers who stepped behind the kit during the tribute concert are already legends. Yet it was a musician most fans had probably never seen before who delivered one of the most moving performances of the night. Shane Hawkins, Taylor’s 16-year-old son, took his father’s chair behind the Foo Fighters and looked like a natural doing it. Young Hawkins seemed energized to honor his father when he first arrived on stage, but Grohl motioned for him to just pause for a moment to appreciate all the love the crowd showered on him and his family. After a breather, Hawkins — showing much of the charisma and talent that made his father a star — led the band through a soulful rendition of “My Hero.”
The final song of the evening was arguably the Foo Fighters’ most beloved track, “Everlong”. But while the tune has traditionally been a raucous closing number during previous Foo Fighters shows, it took on a deeper sense of reflection here.
In the same way he had started the Foo Fighters set, Grohl chose to end the show by performing solo. The frontman, clearly exhausted after a long and emotional night, sincerely thanked fans for coming to celebrate one of his closest friends. The crowd sang along as Grohl crooned the classic tune, and as the final notes of “Everlong” played, the frontman delivered a simple message.
“I love you Taylor,” Grohl proclaimed. “Let’s hear it big and loud for Taylor fucking Hawkins!”