Foo Fighters founder and frontman Dave Grohl cultivates a reputation as a minivan-driving regular guy from Springfield, Va. But his band’s 20th anniversary celebration Saturday at RFK Stadium was a grand affair. Eight acts preceded the quintet’s arrival on stage, and the concert concluded with nothing less than a challenge to the National Park Service: the Foo Fighters’ very own Fourth of July fireworks display. Also, Grohl spent most of the otherwise routine show on what he described as a “throne.”
The motorized white chair wasn’t simply a regal pretension, of course. The singer-guitarist needed the mobile seat, outfitted with flashing lights and emblazoned with a large “FF” logo, because his leg is in a cast. Everyone in the teeming stadium knew that the musician had tumbled off a stage in Sweden last month, an incident he asked to have shown several times on the stage set’s video screens. The break-a-leg flashback was one of several elements that made the concert resemble an episode of “This Is Your Life” hosted by its own honoree.
Much of Grohl’s appeal stems from the fact that he remains a music fan. Friendship, admiration and hometown connections explained the concert’s eclectic lineup, which included up-and-coming Reston, Va., rap-rockers RDGLDGRN; D.C. go-go stalwart Trouble Funk; and Joan Jett, who, like Grohl, spent her formative years in the D.C. suburbs. Also on the bill were new pals from the Fighters’ “Sonic Highways” audio-video project that documented local American music scenes: Austin’s Gary Clark Jr., Chicago’s Buddy Guy and New Orleans’s Trombone Shorty.
Grohl’s fandom is usually demonstrated by an assortment of 1970s and ’80s classic-rock hits, but Saturday’s show included only a version of “Under Pressure,” with Grohl and singing drummer Taylor Hawkins in the roles of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Grohl asked if the crowd wanted the group to play more covers or its own material, and the vote was overwhelmingly for the latter. The musician seemed a little disappointed to return to his own catalogue.
Introducing an acoustic version of “My Hero,” Grohl chattily explained that he was lucky to come of age in the 1980s D.C. punk scene, where the other musicians who played such venues as the Wilson Center were his heroes. None of those former cohorts joined the musician on stage, however. The set’s only cameo was by the now-mainstream rocker’s mom, Virginia Grohl. If her appearance didn’t add anything musically, it was entirely appropriate to a show that was more amiable than exciting.