Summerfest Review: Foo Fighters Kill With Covers of Floyd, Petty, Police

Foo Fighters bring their 'always-on-ten- enthusiasm to Milwaukee, with spectacular results.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

The organizers of Milwaukee’s Summerfest – the world’s largest free outdoor music festival – like to make a big impact when “The Big Gig” kicks off every summer.

While a varied assortment of bands populated the smaller side stages, rock powerhouse Foo fighters lit the two week musical candle with a raging show on the main stage of the Marcus Amphitheater.

Before a capacity crowd of 25,000 in the seats and a few thousand more on the high grass hills surrounding the concert bowl, frontman Dave Grohl led the band on a surging 23 song setlist marked by the group’s signature ceaseless energy and enthusiasm.

Whether anyone likes their music or not, there’s never a doubt these guys are having a hell of a good time playing in front of a big crowd. And they love that crowd enough to serve up the hits many of them enjoyed en route to joining the legions of Foo fans.

Standards like “Learn to Fly,” “Big Me” and “This Is a Call” strung together blocks of songs from more recent albums and covers of tunes from Pink Floyd, The Police and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.

While Nirvana was drenched in anger, angst and gravitas, Foo Fighters lay out their hits with an energy of pure fun and enjoyment. They’re never silly or flighty, as the tone of many of their songs carry significant emotional weight, but Grohl and company are leading a dedicated party – an unabashed bash.

While leaving Nirvana’s existential angst behind, Foo Fighters do embrace their ancestral band’s tendency to play every song at an accelerated tempo live – as though the adrenaline of standing before 30,000 or so raving fans demands a count or two faster pace.

It’ll be a long crazy festival before the unlikely spectacle of Neil Diamond closes Summerfest, but Foo Fighters got the beer soaked party off with a happy explosion.