Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl choked back tears as he played the band’s first show since the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in March.
The star was singing Times Like These when he paused to collect his emotions on the lyric: “It’s times like these you learn to love again.”
Earlier, Grohl described Hawkins as his “dear friend, bandmate and brother”.
He said of Hawkins “no-one else could make you smile or laugh or dance or sing like he could”.
“And for those of you that admired him from afar, I’m sure you’ve all felt the same thing,” Grohl added.
“So sing and dance and laugh and cry and scream and make some noise so he can hear us right now.”
Grohl as Foo Fighters in Honor of Hawkins
Grohl was speaking as Foo Fighters topped the bill at an all-star concert in honor of Hawkins’ life at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The drummer was found dead in a hotel room in Colombia this March, shortly before Foo Fighters were due to play a festival in Bogotá. He was 50 years old.
No cause of death was announced, although a toxicology report showed traces of 10 substances in his body, including opioids, marijuana, and anti-depressants.
Investigators did not say whether the mix of drugs was a factor.
Saturday night’s concert was the first of two gigs organized by the musician’s wife and bandmates, with proceeds going to charities Music Support and MusiCares.
Sir Paul McCartney, Queen, and AC/DC were among the rock royalty who showed up to pay tribute at Wembley; while Liam Gallagher opened the show with a fitting rendition of Oasis’s Rock And Roll Star.
Sir Paul was a surprise addition to the line-up – giving a full-throttle rendition of The Beatles’ classic Helter Skelter, and duetting with Chrissie Hynde on Oh! Darling. “A song I haven’t performed since we recorded it 100 years ago,” Sir Paul said.
British teenager Nandi Bushell, who went viral after challenging Grohl to a drum battle during the lockdown, also got to join her heroes onstage, taking Hawkins’ place during Learn To Fly.
Grohl introduced her as, “one of the most badass drummers I’ve ever met in my life”.
She was one of several musicians to fill Hawkins’ seat, including Blink-182’s Travis Barker, Roger Taylor’s son Rufus and Hawkins’ 16-year-old son, Shane – who gave a thunderous performance of My Hero, on what can only have been an emotionally-charged night.
“If you could only see how many drum sets are back there,” joked Grohl. “It’s like your local music store.”
It was a family affair through and through. Dave Grohl’s daughter Violet, who had known Hawkins all her life, also gave beautiful, sensitive readings of Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Amy Winehouse’s version of Valerie – while her dad watched proudly from the side of the stage.
The concert also featured performances from some of Hawkins’ favorite bands and musicians, including Metallica, Rush, Supergrass, and Stewart Copeland of The Police.
“The last few days we have been asking ourselves the same question after every rehearsal: ‘I wonder what Taylor would think of this – to see all of these amazing people together making music?'” said Grohl at one point, again struggling to contain his emotions.
Queen Tribute in Honor of Foo Fighters Hawkins
There can’t be many drummers whose death would warrant a Stadium-sized tribute, let alone two (a second date will be played in LA next week) – but Taylor Hawkins was no ordinary drummer.
His energy and positivity and passion for life were on display every time Foo Fighters took to the stage. He wasn’t just Dave Grohl’s sideman, he was his equal – playing with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, and the power to match.
Saturday night’s concert was about capturing and celebrating that spirit. A gesture of love, instead of sadness. One that honored his love of music, whether it was Jeff Buckley or George Michael.
“He was a musicologist,” Grohl told the audience. “He knew more about music than anyone I’d ever met in my life.”
That focus on Hawkins’ favorite songs made the concert more personal than most benefit shows, where bands only appear to promote their latest album.
Pop star Kesha tore into a sleazy version of T. Rex’s Children Of The Revolution, while AC/DC’s Brian Johnson lit up the stadium with muscular renditions of Back In Black and Let There Be Rock, accompanied by Grohl and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
“Taylor I know you’re watching,” said Ulrich from the stage. “I know you can hear this, I know you can feel this. We love you.”
The metal legends were also joined by Justin Hawkins from The Darkness – one of the day’s most unstoppable performers, who brought a cocksure swagger to songs like Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher and Queen’s Under Pressure.
Queen – Hawkins’ favorite band – also ran through a compact set of their biggest hits, including We Will Rock You and Somebody To Love, the latter ably assisted by a jump-suited Sam Ryder.
Guitarist Brian May then led the crowd in an acoustic version of Love Of My Life, reflecting on the Freddie Mercury tribute concert that took place on the same stage 30 years ago.
“We said goodbye to Freddie in a style similar to this,” he said, “but I know Freddie would be very happy to use this song to honor Taylor”.