TAYLOR HAWKINS TRIBUTE CONCERT
WEMBLEY STADIUM | LONDON, UK
September 6, 2022 Review by Traci Turner
Saturday was the sold-out Wembley Stadium event remembering Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who passed away unexpectedly at age 50 in March. Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear and Rami Jaffee, along with the Hawkins family, wanted to “celebrate the life, music and love of their husband, father, brother and bandmate with The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts.” The shows would bring together artists Hawkins idolized, artists he played with in various projects, and those artists and his bandmates will play songs Hawkins “fell in love with, and the ones he brought to life.”
The two tribute concerts – this weekend’s in London and the upcoming one in Los Angeles – included a staggering roster of talent and sold out immediately, but ticket and merchandise sales will benefit Music Support and MusiCares.
The London show began with the remaining Foo Fighters taking the stage to thunderous applause. We have not seen them together since Hawkins’ passing, so that alone is emotional. In what will likely be the emotional pattern of the day, there were smiles at seeing one of our favorite bands onstage again, but tears at realizing why this concert is happening.
Grohl tried to quiet the crowd, but as they started to chant “Taylor! Taylor!” he held the mic out to them. He was finally able to welcome fans to the show: “Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we’ve gathered here to celebrate the life, the music, and the love of our dear friend, our bandmate, our brother, Taylor Hawkins. For those of you who knew him personally, you know that 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.”
After letting fans know it was going to be a long night, he introduced the first guest performer as one of Hawkins’ favorites: Liam Gallagher of Oasis. With Grohl on drums, Foo Fighters joined Gallagher for “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and “Live Forever.”
September, 3, 2022
In what would be a pattern of the night, video montages helped keep the crowd distracted during the multiple stage change ups. Dave Chappelle talked up the crowd and said when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2020, Foo Fighters were the musical guest and he got to know Hawkins better and see him with his son Shane. They went to a jazz club and Chappelle saw how much the Taylor and Shane loved music, including David Bowie. As such, the next guests included musicians who worked with Bowie including producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers and drummer Omar Hakim.
Rodgers – whose band was playing at the festival with Foo Fighters the night Hawkins passed – and Hakim were joined by Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders) for an excellent version of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Homme absolutely nailed the vocals and was then replaced by Supergrass front-man Gaz Coombes for “Modern Love.”
After a video montage of Foo early days, Jason Sudeikis appeared onstage and talked about Hawkins’ side projects: Chevy Metal and Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders. The members of those projects joined for several songs and the bass drum had a sweet touch; a photo of one of Hawkins’ favorite artists, the recently passed Olivia Newton-John.
Chevy Metal and The Coattail Riders did Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” super crazy good, and were joined by Kesha for T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.” This will likely be a performance that surprised many as Kesha smoldered in a black metal and chain link dress and her sultry vocals may not be expected of someone more known from the pop world.
The Coattail Riders were joined by The Darkness front-man Justin Hawkins (no relation to Taylor), who was rivaling Kesha for the best dressed award in his shimmery silver jumpsuit unzipped down to his waist. With John Lousteau drumming AND singing at first, they started with “Louise,” and then drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese tapped in for “Range Rover Bitch” and “It’s Over.”
Grohl was back out to describe Hawkins’ love of Van Halen and brought out Eddie Van Halen’s son – who has shown he has that incredible guitar talent himself – Wolfgang Van Halen. With Grohl and Van Halen on guitars, Freese on drums, and Justin Hawkins on vocals, they ripped through an amazing rendition of Van Halen’s “On Fire.” Hawkins’ British accent gave it a new sound, and holy crap, the guitar work of Van Halen gave me chills. And I say that as a non-guitar nerd! In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten chills from a guitar?! They then absolutely crushed “Hot for Teacher.”
A video message from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith was followed by Grohl talking about how much Hawkins loved music itself and how he shared music that Grohl was not familiar with including the late Jeff Buckley. To perform Buckley tracks, Grohl was on drum duty and joined by Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters producer), Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures), Chris Chaney, Jason Falkner, and Grohl’s daughter Violet. As “Last Goodbye” began, Violet started off a bit quiet (I think it was more due to the mic being too low), but by the end she was able to show off her pipes and belted it out, followed by “Grace.”
Sudeikis returned and told how Hawkins loved the British band Supergrass and thought their stuff was amazing. Supergrass has opened for Foo before and played songs that they knew were Hawkins’ favorites: “Going Out,” “Alright,” “Caught by the Fuzz.”
Elton John sent a video message and said that Hawkins had played on his last album. Members of Them Crooked Vultures reunited to play the Elton John classic, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with Grohl drumming. Once again, Homme nailed the vocals. After they did “Gunman,” Homme told the audience, “Look to the left. Look to the right. The world’s going to end soon. There’s no time left except for love and I fucking love you and I love Taylor. On behalf of everyone here I hope you have the best time of your life. The time of your life!” They closed their set with the Queens of the Stone Age song “Long Slow Goodbye” and as Homme walked off the stage, his son dashed out to hug him. Super cute.
A video message from Nikki Sixx led into Grohl speaking to the fans again. He told of Hawkins’ love for the band The Pretenders and said he shared that love. With Grohl on guitar, Chrissie Hynde – whose voice sounds like it did decades ago! – hit the stage for “Precious,” “Tattooed Love Boys,” and “Brass in Pocket.” Before she left the stage, Hynde jokingly sang, “Sweet Caroline!” and waited for the crowd to do the “BUM BUM BUM!”
There was some more Foo video footage before Grohl told of Hawkins’ deep love of the band James Gang and said it may even be his favorite band. Before Joe Walsh was in the Eagles, he was a member of the James Gang and Grohl said they had not played together in 15 years, but reunited for this event. Their old school rock sound was displayed on “Walk Away,” “The Bomber: Closet Queen / Bolero / Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” and then they added a second drum set so Grohl could join them on their hit “Funk #49.”
Grohl told the audience that they had spent three months planning these events and as the rehearsals were taking place, people kept saying, “What would Taylor think?” and become visibly emotional. He introduced the next batch of performers, Violet Grohl, Mark Ronson, Chris Chaney, and Jason Falkner, who walked onto a stage that went further into the crowd. In an acoustic-style set, they encouraged the audience to sing along to the Amy Winehouse song “Valerie.”
Video footage of a monster drum solo from Hawkins during a show was played before a video message from Billie Eilish and her producer/brother Finneas as night finally fell over the stadium.
Grohl once again addressed the crowd and said – as he had more than once – that they were not even close to being done. With that, he brought out AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, and the Foo Fighters. The crowd had been very vocal all day, but they absolutely erupted over these guests and as “Back in Black” started… the screams were insane! The performance was so incredible, Ulrich looked like he was going to throw his drumsticks and walk off like the show was over, while Johnson seemed to feel the same. How could that be topped? They seemed to remember, yes, there is more to do and started “Let There Be Rock.”
When the song was done, Grohl said, “Any other rock and roll show, that might be the perfect ending, but we’re not done yet.” He introduced another one of Hawkins’ idols with, “He loved this drumming legend, one of Taylor’s biggest influences and heroes, from The Police, Mister Stewart Copeland!”
With Copeland on drums, Foo Fighters did The Police’s “Next to You” but with Grohl’s “screamy” vocals. Supergrass’ Coombes came back to take over as singer for “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”
Duff McKagan and Slash from Guns N’ Roses shared a video message before Grohl welcomed the band he “always associates with Taylor:” Rush. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were joined by Grohl for “2112 Part I: Overture” and “Working Man” which actually impressed me, again as a non-guitar nerd. These guys are amazing! Grohl stepped aside for Hakim to drum again and Rush wrapped up with “YYZ.”
Footage of Hawkins introducing Queen’s Roger Taylor at a Foo show then cut to Roger Taylor live behind the drum set with a massive group on stage: Queen’s Brian May, Foo Fighters, Rufus Taylor (The Darkness and Roger’s son), and Luke Spiller (The Struts). Spiller was an excellent choice to channel Freddie Mercury for “We Will Rock You.”
Roger Taylor then took the mic to sing Queen’s “I’m in Love With My Car” before Justin Hawkins returned (in pink this time) to duet on “Under Pressure.”
As Grohl welcomed Sam Ryder to the stage, I – along with many on the internet apparently – wondered who that was. The TikTok sensation and runner up in the Eurovision Song Contest gave a performance of “Somebody to Love” with May, the Taylors, and Foo Fighters that was definitely a goosebump moment. Plus his jumpsuit rocked.
May took to the stage walkout where the “Valerie” performance had been earlier and the fans in Wembley were howling with appreciation. It was July 1985 that Queen performed in this same stadium as part of Live Aid and gave a performance that is still talked about today. They also had their own headline show at Wembley the following year.
May sat on a stool with an acoustic guitar and said, “I did not write this song. It was written by a young boy called Freddie Mercury.” The crowd started cheering. He continued, “In 1986 we were on this exact spot singing this song together. And in 1992, exactly 30 years ago, we said goodbye to Freddie in a style similar to this, so I know that Freddie would be very happy to use this song to honor Taylor Hawkins.”
As you can expect, this again drew a huge response from the fans. The lights were low, but the stadium was lit by the phones of concertgoers as May sang a touching rendition of “Love of My Life.” I’m willing to bet a lot of tears were shed.
The tears were wiped away and a video montage of silly Hawkins moments was shown along with photos with friends and family. The remaining Foo Fighters took the stage with Josh Freese behind the kit.
As Grohl grabbed the mic to begin, you could see the struggle in him to hold it together. To understand this is the first time he would perform with his band without his “brother.”
In his memoir last year, Grohl wrote of Hawkins: “Tearing through the room like an F5 tornado of hyperactive joy was Taylor Hawkins, my brother from another mother, my best friend, a man from whom I would take a bullet. Upon first meeting, our bond was immediate, and we grew closer with every day, every song, every note that we played together. I am not afraid to say that our chance meeting was a kind of love at first sight, igniting a musical ‘twin flame’ that still burns to this day. Together, we have become an unstoppable duo, onstage and off, in pursuit of any and all adventure we can find. We are absolutely meant to be, and I am grateful that we found each other in this lifetime.”
Grohl took deep breaths and the crowd cheered him on as he began “Times Like These.” He got through the first verses, but as he got to “Do I stay or run away, And leave it all behind?” his emotions were bubbling up. He got to “It’s times like these you learn to live again, It’s times like these you give and give again” and the tears came. He could not go on, shaking his head and wiping away tears, he was overcome with emotion (I confess to being a sobbing mess myself). The Wembley fans cheered, yelled, screamed, and sent him every ounce of encouragement they could.
Grohl got through the last two solo lines, blasted his guitar, and the band joined in to rock like Foo Fighters do. With an “All right, motherfuckers, let go right now!” Grohl was back in rock star mode. He still seemed emotional, but when he began the next song, “All My Life,” his smile returned and they all looked to be having a great time rocking again. The crowd could be heard singing along to every single song’s chorus throughout the remainder of the show.
Grohl thanked Freese and said there would be a rotation of drummers for the Foo set and up next was Blink-182’s Travis Barker who handled “The Pretender” and “Monkey Wrench.” But up after Barker was as Grohl said, “One of the most badass drummers I’ve ever met in my life” and phenom Nandi Bushell joined the guys for “Learn to Fly.” Her sparkle Taylor jacket was a sweet touch, her drumming was fantastic of course, but seeing her sing along and play with such joy was the best.
Rufus Taylor came to drum, complete with a Taylor Hawkins tattoo on his right arm, and did “These Days,” which got Grohl emotional. With lyrics “One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat,” it’s understandable. Once again, the crowd pushed Grohl through and sang to keep him going.
Taylor stayed for “Best of You” and then Grohl discussed how the planning had brought together so many friends and welcomed their friend, Paul McCartney, who came out with Chrissie Hynde and Omar Hakim for The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.”
McCartney said it was the first time as a duet and probably the first time since they recorded it “100 years ago.”
Hynde left the stage, but the rest of the guys stayed and did a rocking version of “Helter Skelter” before McCartney departed as well.
With just Foo Fighters and Hakim, they did a lovely performance of “Aurora” which I recall at one point in the past Grohl said was about questioning life and it was the heaviest song he had ever written.
Grohl said goodbye to Hakim, who had drummed off and on since the afternoon, and then the moment arrived that you likely have heard about if you were near the internet this weekend.
“We have one more drummer that’s going to come up and play with us tonight,” Grohl said. “Let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone hit the drums as hard as this person, but beyond that, he’s a member of our family, and he needs to be here tonight, with all of us. And I think it makes sense that he’s going come up and play with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome Mister Shane Hawkins on the drums.” The stadium went crazy with cheers as Taylor Hawkins’ 16-year-old son sat behind the drum kit with the Foo Fighters, just as his father had done countless times.
Between Grohl looking back at young Hawkins through the song to check him, the lyrics to “My Hero,” the realization that this is Taylor’s son being so amazing playing for HIS band, Shane’s facial expressions (whether it be emotion or just unintentional drummer faces), the crowd singing… the moment was overwhelming. There were tears in the stadium and yes, I had them too.
After the song, Wembley roared their approval and Shane was enveloped in hugs by family and Foo band members, leaving just Grohl onstage.
“I hope that you guys felt all the love from all of us and all of the performers because we felt it from you for Taylor tonight, so thank you everybody,” he told fans. After thanking the Hawkins family, he said, “This one’s for Taylor” and performed “Everlong” solo. There was a moment where it may have seemed like he was going to stop, but the crowd sang again, and once again, gave him the encouragement.
As the song’s end, Grohl said, “We love you Taylor. Thank you very much everybody for being here tonight.” Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, and Rami Jaffee joined Grohl as he said, “Let’s hear it big and loud for Taylor fucking Hawkins right now.” He welcomed all the performers on the stage to close out the emotional and incredible show.
I cannot comprehend the emotions the Foo Fighters family is going through and what kind of crazy rollercoaster an event like this would bring. They are going to do it again in Los Angeles on September 27th at Kia Forum. The London performers planning to go to L.A. are Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, Rush’s Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, Stewart Copeland, Josh Homme, Wolfgang Van Halen, Chris Chaney, Mark Ronson, Omar Hakim, Alain Johannes, Greg Kurstin, and Chevy Metal.
They will be joined by Gene Simmons, Joan Jett, P!NK, LeAnn Rimes, John Paul Jones, Nancy Wilson, Krist Novoselic, Alanis Morissette, Miley Cyrus, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Chad Smith, Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk, Queens of the Stone Age’s Jon Theodore.
The Los Angeles show is completely sold out and at this time, there are no plans for a live broadcast, but should that change, we will let you know.
If you would like to watch the London broadcast, check out Paramount+.
WEMBLEY PHOTO GALLERY
PHOTOS by KEVIN MAZUR, SCARLET PAGE, DANNY CLINCH, OLIVER HALFIN and ANDREAS NEUMANN.
Courtesy of Nasty Little Man, PR – New York