When Dave Grohl took to the stage on Friday night at Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, he couldn’t have predicted the kind of night he was going to have, or the sense of occasion his misfortune inadvertently helped create.
And neither would the rest of the band, or me, seeing my first ever Foo Fighters gig, and the rest of the crowd.
It was a warm and sunny June evening, and Dave was bounding around the stage as the Foos opened the gig with wondertrack Everlong, recently chosen by David Letterman to be the song with which to retire from the Late Show. The band quickly jumped into Monkey Wrench, as energetic a song as you’ll ever see at a rock concert, at least that’s how it was to be for about one and a half minutes.
Dave finished the first chorus and bounded away from the mic, seemingly stumbling or tripping on something five or six feet from the edge of the stage. The trip seemed innocuous enough until he reached the lip, and had been unable to straighten up.
He was almost already falling, so decided to jump into that fall as he dropped down five or six feet from the stage, guitar in front of him, landing on a slightly raised section first.
I saw that his head and arms were moving straight away so knew he hadn’t hit his head or been really, really badly hurt, but then he stayed down, as roadies and medics rushed to him and all of a sudden this was looking like the shortest concert ever.
There was understandable concern from the crowd for the 46-year-old. The band played on for another verse, stripped of Grohl’s vocals and guitar, before drummer Taylor Hawkins stopped, mouthing: ‘what happened?’
After a minute or so, Dave grabbed the mic from where he had fallen and said: "Hey, ladies and gentlemen. I think I just broke my leg. I think I really broke my leg."
He then talked about going to hospital and fixing his leg and coming back to play. The audience didn’t know if he was serious or joking – how could anyone come back and play with a broken leg?
"I'm so sorry, i'm so sorry,” he said. “Right now, Taylor Hawkins, you gotta do it, you gotta do it!"
That was the first of many indications that Foo Fighters are no ordinary band.
Implored by their intrepid orchestrator, the band agreed to do a few tracks just to placate the audience that had come out to see them tonight.
“Dave’s asked us to play some songs for you,” Hawkins said. “And because we love Dave, we’re gonna do it.”
They first ran through ‘Cold Day In The Sun’, a Foos song that features Hawkins on lead vocals, before playing ‘Stay With Me’ by the Faces.
But with everyone expecting that things would wrap up soon, what looked like a few hundred people started leaving from the standing area. Then the band started playing Under Pressure.
And something happened that will go down in rock folklore.
For Dave Grohl is no mere mortal rock star, no, he is David Eric “Dave” Grohl, arguably the greatest rock and roll drummer alive today, veteran of two of the biggest bands of the last 25 years, and all together good guy.
Grohl was carried on stage by medics, roadies and security, getting to the mic in perfect timing to launch into Freddie Mercury’s falsetto second verse of the Queen & Bowie classic.
The rest of the band looked part-amused part-bemused, as Grohl and Hawkins traded vocal lines for the remainder of the track, with plenty of disbelieving, smiling headshakes to boot.
The crowd, of course, went wild. We were all supporting the band minus Dave as they powered on admirably through the covers, but seeing Grohl carried out, like some fallen soldier refusing to leave his post, whipped us into a frenzy.
He took up a chair under the mic, grabbed his guitar and launched into ‘The Pretender’ as a lone medic held his ankle stable. The rest of the gig was infused with the energy and togetherness of seeing someone who, as Hawkins said: “could have easily just gotten in their limo and headed off to the morphine house”, but refused to, made it a special night.
Unbelievably, Grohl left the stage for another couple of tracks to have a cast put on backstage, and Hawkins and the band played a few more covers, before the former Nirvana drummer was back out.
They played Walk, noted as being somewhat ironic by Grohl, and he laughed as he sang the lyrics (lot’s of going down, falling and jumping references here), before donning some crutches and making his way down the gangway with guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear for company and support.
They played, with Chris on acoustic guitar and Pat standing by to catch an at times wobbling Dave, cracking versions of 'My Hero' (dedicated to the medic that did the ankle holding) and 'Times Like These', and it was difficult not to hear the lyrics through the lens of what Grohl was putting himself through just to put on a good show with his band.
Quite aside from whatever pain he must have certainly been in, it captured the audience in a way only something unique and tinged with sacrifice can do.
Grohl and the band felt it too, and they were eager to keep going as long as possible, what ended up being over a two and a half hour set. The Foo’s main man knew it was a night that was likely to go down in history, and he didn’t want to let it go, however much it hurt.
With the Swedish sun hanging around for good measure too as midnight approached, the band finally wrapped up with a rousing final three of AC/DC cover 'Let There Be Rock', first song from first album 'This Is A Call', and the anthemic 'Best Of You'.
The audience certainly got the best that the Foo Fighters could offer, and no one present will forget it in a hurry – certainly not Grohl, who it looked like jumped straight in a car to make his overdue hospital visit, later revealing a break of the right fibula down by his ankle.
Thank you Gothenburg. That was amazing. pic.twitter.com/BXvuxIfVEv— Foo Fighters (@foofighters) June 12, 2015
Who knows if he’ll be fit for impending concerts at Wembley and Glastonbury, not to mention a scheduled appearance at Pukkelpop Festival in the Netherlands in just one day, but you wouldn’t put it past him powering through it.
Grohl underlined why people so readily mention him as the most committed, devoted to music, and in-it-for-the-fans guy in rock, and he and Foo Fighters took part in a show that surely has to go down as an all-time great.
As good friends Tenacious D would say of Grohl and the band, as they prepared to soldier on earlier in the evening: “For those about to rock, we salute you!”