It's a sure sign that you are about to witness a cutting-edge band when the scalpers are smiling. Last-minute tickets for Sunday's "Foo Fighters" show were fetching up to $50 apiece, and business outside the midtown New York concert hall, the Academy, was brisk. Fans from age 8 to 28 were clad in their finest grunge-wear, eager to hear former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and his new incarnation.
After Nirvana's front man, Kurt Cobain, took his life last year, rumors began this spring that Grohl was going to step around his drum kit and lead a band. Since then, music-industry executives have been scurrying to snatch up what formed - the Foo Fighters. For Nirvana not only paved the way for hundreds of bands, but for the whole new sound of grunge. And that guitar-heavy, grinding sound has made record companies millions.
The buzz on the Foo Fighters is well deserved. When Grohl repeatedly shouted, "I don't owe you anything," from the band's blistering song "I'll Stick Around," Grohl was speaking to the same disillusioned teenagers who were captivated by Cobain's heart-wrenching ballads and primal, unintelligible screams. Cobain touched a chord with these youngsters, and Grohl's band successfully taps back into it.
Grohl must have been scheming to sing and play lead guitar during his Nirvana days, because his transition to front man has been a smooth one. His voice is as jarring and confident as Cobain's, and his guitar-playing, while not as accomplished, is crisp.
It is easy for critics to call Grohl's band a cheap knockoff of Nirvana. But the band's live performance indicates they are even more relentless than their grunge counterparts. Their first single, "This Is a Call," began at a fast pace. Just as the song kicked into form, however, it accelerated into another, more frenetic gear. It was at this point, when the fans were bouncing into each other or "moshing" and Grohl was whipping his head up and down, that the Foo Fighters excelled.
The Foo Fighters - named after the "flying saucers" supposedly seen by US Air Force pilots over Germany at the end of World War II - released their first, self-titled album on Roswell Records last month. Los Angeles' Capitol Records won the rights to distribute it, and the label is glad it did: The album has already sold 167,000 copies, according to SoundScan.
In concert, Grohl, dressed in a plain gray T-shirt and blue pants, uses his hair to maximum effect. When he sang about his own ego in the melodic "Big Me," his hair cascaded over his face. The radio-friendly song is catchy, even Beatlesque, and the crowd swayed to its rhythmic stanzas.
Fortunately for the fans who wanted to hear the group's harsher, more discordant numbers, "Big Me" was an exception in the band's 80-minute set. "Watershed" was defined by propulsive drums and raw, screeching guitars. Unlike some of its other songs that switch tempos, this song cooked from the opening chord to its final note.
The most memorable number of its four-song encore was "Good Grief." The jolting number moved at a rapid clip until the chorus kicked in. Then the band careened into overdrive as Grohl bellowed "hey yeah." And the young concertgoers responded by hurling themselves into each other as though they were at a punk show.
*The Foo Fighters will perform at Bogart's in Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug. 19; Omni New Daisy in Memphis, Aug. 21; and the 328 Club in Nashville, Aug. 22. The group will play at a number of European festivals before resuming its US tour.