Dave Grohl made a guy cry Saturday night at the Voodoo Experience.
The Foo Fighters frontman singled out a fanboy pressed against the barricade down front. “The Kid,” as Grohl referred to him, appeared to be in his early 20s and wore a backwards baseball cap and a Foo Fighters sweatshirt.
Grohl locked eyes with him. “I’m gonna sing this song in your face right now, how about that?” Grohl said, inserting more colorful adjectives. “And when I’m singing it, I want you to sing it back into my face!”
The song was “My Hero.” By the first chorus, The Kid was wiping away tears. It was clear who his hero was.
The intimate bro-mance played out on the stage’s video screens for all to see, making for a moment much bigger than the parties involved. This was the power of properly administered rock music, of which Grohl is a staunch, unapologetic advocate.
The Foo Fighters closed out a chilly evening at Voodoo Fest. Temperatures weren’t as frigid as for Metallica’s Voodoo appearance in 2012, but it was still a good night to be a blanket vendor. Far less skin than usual was on display throughout the festival grounds, and an appropriate costume option was a member of a South Pole expedition.
The cold didn’t faze Vintage Trouble vocalist Ty Taylor, who evoked a young, even more animated James Brown at the South Course Stage. Taylor was a dervish, highlighting his soul/rhythm & blues band’s muscular, full-tilt blues ’n’ boogie with back bends and spins, and by jumping rope with his microphone cord.
“How many people want to go to church right now?” he exclaimed, as Nalle Colt’s wicked, snake-bit slide guitar ushered in the double-time gospel rave-up “Run, Baby, Run.” Taylor made his way through the audience and climbed atop the barricade surrounding the mixing board. “Get your hands up in the air!” he commanded, then leaped onto those outstretched arms and crowd-surfed back to the stage.
A final “Knock Me Out,” pumped up by a three-piece horn section and capped off by the whole band parading through the crowd, finished Vintage Trouble’s hot set on a cold night.
The audience at the main Altar Stage for the Foo Fighters wasn’t as massive as for rapper Kendrick Lamar the night before; it also skewed considerably older. Such statistics align with the prevailing trend in popular music: Hip-hop and pop rule, and rock is in retreat.
But Grohl and company aren’t going down without a fight.
They announced themselves with “All My Life,” with Grohl’s wail even more scalded than usual. Following “Learn to Fly,” he promised that, given the scant 90 minutes the Foo Fighters had been allotted, he wouldn’t waste much time talking.
But Grohl being Grohl, he couldn’t help himself. The hyper-enthused singer’s chattiness accounts for a large part of the Foo Fighters’ collective personality. He comes across as a relentlessly upbeat dude/dad who is super-stoked to lead a rock band. He’s also self-aware enough to be funny.
Given Grohl’s verbal, and the band’s musical, asides, they managed only 13 songs Saturday, roughly half the average on their current tour. But they made those 13 count.
Near the end of a furious “The Pretender,” Grohl gave a shout-out to recently deceased New Orleans rock ’n’ roll legend Fats Domino. He and Chris Shiflett then exchanged bluesy guitar licks that were more Chuck Berry than Fats Domino.
They rocked “The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” from their new studio album “Concrete and Gold,” the bombs-away refrain of “Walk” and the taut “Rope.” Grohl engaged drummer and wing man Taylor Hawkins in a guitar/drums back-and-forth. Hawkins, once prone to simply bash away, constructed a series of drum fills worthy of a stadium-sized rock band, one that is simultaneously classic and modern.
After teasing a bit of “Stairway to Heaven” — when keyboardist Rami Jaffee started to synthesize the song’s recorders, Grohl cut him off — they launched a furious “Monkey Wrench.”
Grohl reminisced sweetly about the week the band spent at Preservation Hall in 2014 during the making of the “Sonic Highways” album and documentary.
“When I went home, I was bummed,” he said. “As a musician, there’s no other place in the world that celebrates music like this place. Name one other city where it's OK for a band to march down the street with 700 people drinking. You’re lucky that you get to live here.”
With that, he rendered most of “Times Like These” alone with his guitar before his bandmates finally jumped in. An epic “Best of You” demonstrated yet again how thoroughly they’ve mastered swing-for-the-fences, anthemic guitar rock.
Classic rock covers are staples of Foo Fighters sets, even this truncated one. For Queen’s “Under Pressure,” Hawkins stepped out front to sing, turning the drums over to a worthy substitute: Rufus Taylor, son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor.
They did “Under Pressure” justice, though some fans likely would have preferred another Foo Fighters song instead. As it turned out, the band had time for just one more. A soaring “Everlong” concluded exactly at Voodoo’s 11 p.m. curfew, sending folks off in search of warmth, with their ears ringing.