The weather may be unpredictable but it was a dead cert that this particular night in Belfast 35,000 people were going to turn up to a night of incredible music. The Vital festival was hosting one of the biggest shows of the year at the Boucher playing fields as none other than the Foo Fighters were taking the stage.
Before that though the ever energetic Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes took to the stage by letting everyone know they were there to entertain as Frank himself screamed out “Belfast!!” before they blasted out “Tyrant Lizard King”. Along with “Kitty Sucker” and “Vampires” Belfast bore witness to a wonderful punk flamboyance as Frank belted out the vocals in the crowd itself. He really had the crowd lapping it up as he crowd surfed and stood on shoulders all whilst he was surrounded by a sea of energised fans all vying to get close to him and land that impressive selfie with him in frame. He even persuaded the band’s lead guitarist, Dean Richardson to join in the fun in the pit. It was a truly epic feeling to see and hear such a tightly talented band really taking audience participation to another level. The sense of humour really made it too as Frank kept disappearing amongst the swell of fans he yelled out “Don’t worry. I’m not lost, I’m just 5 foot 7”
On they went with their aggressively energised set with “Love Games” leading into Frank calling for a woman only crowd surf and mosh pit which was enthusiastically answered by a host of women joyously taking part. With “Lullaby” and “Crowbar”, the band continued with their onslaught of fun punk rock attitude. Frank encouraged the crowd to make as big a circle pit as possible and chided the meagre beginnings with “My mum’s blender is bigger”. It didn’t take long for it to grow before exploding as the crowd responded to the punchy riffs, vocals with nothing held back and melodies that got everyone moving. “Devil Inside Me” and “I Hate You” finished off the set perfectly. The crowd went wild and Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes could walk off stage knowing they had a massive field of both old and new fans.
After a break long enough for some drink and food and all the sound checks complete, on came the one, the only, the Foo Fighters! The band all took their places as the swelling crowd raised their voices is absolute approval as they witness this massive band physically stand in front of them. Dave lent into the mic and called out to the 35,000 strong sold out gig audience “Its been a long time” and got a roar in answer and as they kicked off their two and a half hour set with “Run”, you could literally feel the earth shake as 70,000 feet lifted into the air and landed in time to the music. This was an awe inspiring, hair raising moment. This was a moment you realised that this is no tribute, this is one of the best bands in the world. Right in front of you. “Learn To Fly” was next along with the question “Does everyone here love rock and roll?” Dave got his answer, and it was a resounding yes as the band, utterly tight, utterly talented, knocked out of the park some real old style rock and roll riffs. Dave spoke once more to the attentive audience and asked “You guys want to sing a song with me?”. As if they weren’t. And so the Foo Fighters landed home with “The Pretender”.
On they went such incredible and perfectly delivered set pieces like “The Sky is The Neighbourhood”, and “Times Like These” before Taylor Hawkins was unleashed upon the crowd with his spell binding drum solo. And just to underline what it was, the drum stage extended up into the air where he could take lead vocals on “Sunday Rain”.
The next song Dave dedicated to his mother as he regaled the audience with the story of how much his mom means to him, that she was a teacher and how he almost came to live in Lisburn! And of course the song could be no other than “My Hero”.
The showmanship didn’t stop as on came the hits with “These Days”, La Dee Da” and “Walk” which then led into meeting the band as they each played a mixture of solos before Dave returned to a familiar place for fans of a certain age, behind the drum set. Taylor took up the lead vocals as they produced a wonderful rendition of Queen’s “Under Pressure”.
Back to normal positions then for the Foo Fighters, as “All My Life and “I’ll Stick Around” was blasted out to the delight of the sea of faces. What made this even more connected was Dave seeing and picking out a little boy, Taylor who was Five holding a placard declaring this was his first gig. Dave couldn’t miss the chance and called him and his family up to the stage. And Dave didn’t have to coax the energetic young chap, Taylor, very much to come out into the middle of the stage and show everyone how to dance. The crowd went wild as Taylor showed that he was a natural born rocker.
As the band rolled out “Wheels”, in a natural group think of 35,000 people, the field was awash with mobile phones held in the air all with their torches switched on. It stunned Dave so much he got all the stage lights switched off so he could better see this amazing and touching sight.
Then came “Monkey Wrench”, Hey, Johnny Park”, “Big Me” and “Best Of You”. Every single song delivered with fun, energy and smiles. Then Dave called out his three backing singers, one of which was his own daughter, before they launched into “Dirty Water”.
And as Dave informed the audience that they don’t do encores and just play the last moment they delivered on that with finishing the set with “This Is A Call” and finally “Everlong”.
There may have been a cold wind, but the tightly packed field meant that no one was going to be too cold. The body heat would have sent a heat camera off the scales.
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes and The Foo Fighters were a perfect combination. Both bands are pure rock and roll entertainment appreciative of the audience and both are intensely talented.
The Foo Fighters had the whole place eating out of their hands and the show they put on was unforgettable. If you ever get the chance to see them live, you will utterly regret not going.
Hopefully it won’t take another 7 years for the Foo Fighters to fill a stage in Belfast.