West Valley City • Let's get this out of the way first: Too many critics (including me) routinely introduce Dave Grohl as the former drummer from Nirvana.
But that is the last time in this review that I will name Grohl's former band, because Tuesday night at the Maverik Center, Grohl demonstrated what a kinetic frontman he is for the Foo Fighters. He was born to strap on a guitar and be in front of a band, rather than sitting down near the rear of the stage.
Dressed in all black and with long, black hair and a trimmed black beard, the amiable and always-smiling 42-year-old exploded in color through a two-hour-plus set that featured most of the songs that have dominated rock radio for the past 16 years, including "Learn to Fly," "Breakout" and "My Hero."
As with most concerts, there were problems. Although the band sounded robust, Grohl's voice was buried too low in the mix. Except for drummer Taylor Hawkins' taking the vocals on "Cold Day In the Sun," Grohl was the only musician of the quintet who showed any life, doing all of the heavy lifting when it came to entertaining he resembled a Turkish whirling dervish. He didn't interact much with his band. And although the main visual elements onstage were 12 cube-shaped video screens, one of the 12 flickered on and off for much of the night.
But that is nitpicking when it comes down to a night of loud and fast guitars that lift the spirit. Grohl was the eager-to-please focal point of a great night of rock 'n' roll, with his sturdy verse-chorus-verse songs showcasing the soft-loud dynamic that ties him to the early 1990s what many, including me, consider the Golden Age of Rock. The Parthenon might be old, but it's great.
Opening the show was Mariachi el Bronx, a surprisingly fun eight-piece Los Angeles punk-rock band that on this tour doubles as its alter ego, a mariachi band. With drums, a violin, two trumpets, a classical guitar, vihuelas and a guitarrón, the group dressed in studded charro outfits and sounded much better than the trios usually found in second-tier Mexican restaurants.
Kentucky rock band Cage the Elephant also opened. Singer Matthew Shultz told the crowd that drummer Jared Champion had been hospitalized for a burst appendix, so the band seemed tentative as a substitute drummer began their set. But the band and crowd got a spark when Grohl surprisingly sat behind the drum kit and played the last five songs of the opener's set, with Shultz remarking that it was "one of those moments I'll never forget for the rest of my life."
Grohl showed he was a vital cog in two of the three bands that performed, by emoting and sweating and running and pounding and skipping, and even duck-walking. For a rock fan it was, well, nirvana.
P Dave Grohl shows he can be a frontman.
When • Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Where • Maverik Center, West Valley City