Seth Hurwitz built The Anthem, so it’s only fitting that he’d help christen the massive music venue at The Wharf. Late into Foo Fighters’ 22-song set that marked the official opening of the 6,000-person concert hall Thursday night, frontman Dave Grohl invited the venue’s co-owner onstage.
“Whenever we do a show in Washington, D.C., there’s the one f—ing dude who always says, ‘Can I play drums with you on one song?’” Grohl said. “Every single time. And you can’t say no because he owns the f—ing club.”
Hurwitz stepped in on drums with what he called “the best band in the world” for a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Bitch,” while regular drummer Taylor Hawkins handled vocals. It was a fitting moment for a show that was as much about the new venue as it was about Foo Fighters.
Even though this was technically the fourth show at The Anthem (following soft openings on Sunday and Tuesday and a radio station-sponsored Foo Fighters concert on Wednesday), there was an electricity in the room as fans got a look at what this place is like during a sold-out show. The Anthem is huge but still feels intimate. It somehow looks and feels like the 9:30 Club, which Hurwitz also co-owns, while giving off its own vibe. Thursday night, the sightlines on the two balcony levels — even the standing areas behind the boxes of premium-priced “Super Excellent Seats” — were remarkable for a venue of this size, and the floor was packed shoulder to shoulder. The sound was excellent in most places, though it did get a bit muddy in spots that have an overhang above.
It’s not hyperbole to say The Anthem is going to change live music in D.C. for the better.
As for the show itself, it was a consistently great performance from one of rock’s most consistently great bands. After a surprise opening set from D.C. go-go legends Trouble Funk, and a set from English glam rock band The Struts, Grohl and Co. took the stage around 9:40 and didn’t let up until after midnight. It was everything you’d want from a Foo Fighters show: loud, loose and full of hits, including “All My Life,” “Learn to Fly,” “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench” and “Best of You.”
The band is touring behind “Concrete and Gold,” the ninth Foo Fighters album, so there was an emphasis on new songs, several of which were augmented by a trio of female backup singers. The new stuff felt familiar, with Grohl’s usual penchant for big hooks and amped-up guitars. One of the funnier bits of the night came during the band members’ intros, when Foo Fighters turned into a live jukebox, teasing fans with bits of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
Grohl worked The Anthem’s big stage, constantly running back and forth during guitar solos, and was in a particularly chatty mood, often thanking Hurwitz for letting the band play there and reminiscing about his days growing up in Northern Virginia. The Anthem is the linchpin of The Wharf, the redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront that finally started to take shape Thursday, and Grohl recalled visits to the fish market there as a child.
“I do remember coming down here as a kid to get seafood at the little seafood stand,” he said. “What happens in August is it starts smelling like dead crabs everywhere. Never stopped me from coming down here.”
Now that The Anthem is open, nothing should stop Grohl — or D.C. music fans — from coming down there again.