Foo Fighters Revive Live At June Madison Square Garden Show: 2021 Year End, The Great Return

Kevin Mazur / Getty Images / Foo Fighters
– Garden Variety
Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl surveys the full-capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden during the arena’s first concert since March 2020.

It was a surreal experience: For the first time in 15 months, live music was back at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, and with a full-capacity audience, no less.

At 2021’s outset, the exact form the live industry’s return would take was still uncertain. Drive-in shows and podded concerts had become relatively common throughout the U.S., and some venues, predominantly in regions with fewer coronavirus-related restrictions, had reopened their doors for traditional shows. With soaring vaccination rates and plummeting case numbers, a torrent of tour and festival announcements arrived in April and May – but most were for shows in the late summer and fall.

That’s why Foo Fighters’ announcement on June 8 of a Madison Square Garden headlining show less than two weeks later on June 20 was so bold and surprising. After months of discussing “the comeback,” it had suddenly arrived, and sooner than many had expected.

In these divided times, the show naturally wasn’t without controversy, as small but vocal groups congregated outside the Manhattan venue to protest the concert’s vaccination requirement, with signs held aloft likening the protocol to tyranny, portending the debate that dogged the live industry for the rest of the year.

But inside, the scene at one of the country’s first full-capacity arena gigs since the start of the pandemic was shockingly normal. The Delta variant and the risk of breakthrough cases weren’t yet dominating the news, and fans eagerly shed their masks and rubbed shoulders in lines and at their seats.

For many of those in the crowd, the artist performing mattered less than the fact that there was an artist performing, and that they were physically in the room with them. That the evening’s programming was Foo Fighters, who had been announced as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees just weeks earlier, was high-decibel, riveting icing on the cake.

Frontman Dave Grohl first solemnly honored the gravity of the night with a poignant, set-opening “Times Like These,” before screaming, “Here we go, motherfuckers!” and blazing through a hit parade for nearly three hours. Dave Chappelle joined the band for a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” and the Foos later tackled the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing,” but the night transcended any one song or moment.

“That first show back at Madison Square Garden after 15 months without any concerts was incredible, and to have it be with Foo Fighters made it even better,” MSG Entertainment EVP Darren Pfeffer later told Pollstar sister publication VenuesNow. “Being there, rocking out with 15,000 vaccinated fans after so long, it really felt like you were part of something bigger. This was so much more than just a rock show. This was music history.”

The night’s significance wasn’t lost on Grohl, who periodically paused to reflect on it before the audience.

“For the last year, I had this recurring dream that I would walk onstage and we would look at each other for the first time and it would take a couple minutes and we’d just look at each other like, ‘Thank God we got through this,’” Grohl said at one point. “I walked out onstage tonight and it was just like that fucking dream. So thank you very much everybody for making my dream come true tonight.”

Before the encore-closing “Everlong,” Grohl, grinning from ear to ear, said the obvious: “We should do this more often.”