One 25th March this year, I was devastated by the death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
I’d never before really understood people’s outpouring of grief at the death of a celebrity, how people could be so upset over the death of someone they’d never met.
Not to say I hadn’t been shocked or a bit sad before, after all I was a news reader in 2016 and basically broke the news of pretty much every celebrity death that year on air; Bowie had shocked me to the point that I didn’t know whether to run into the studio first or get it on the website. I was a bit sad that musical legend had gone but devastated? No.
Watching people get upset, I just didn’t get it.
Then one of my musical heroes, the drummer from my band died, unexpectedly and then I understood.
I was shocked, I couldn’t comprehend it.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know already I’m a big Foos fan.
From the first time I stood freezing cold in a Leeds field, awe struck at what I was seeing, I knew this was my band. There’d be many more concerts and festivals, each one as amazing as the last; there’d be an extra special trip to Milton Keynes bowl in 2011 where Scott would propose during Everlong.
They’ve provided the soundtrack to some of my best memories, which means Taylor Hawkins kept the beat.
That’s the thing about ‘your’ band or artist. They feel as though they belong to you (in a non stalkerish way). Unbeknownst to them, they’re a big part of your life, their music brings a smile to your face, a few chords will instantly transport you to another time. Put quite simply, ‘your’ band is special to you, they have a place in your heart.
For me, Taylor Hawkins did all of the above. He controlled the Foos from the back of the stage, always in a pair of jazzy shorts or leggings. At every gig, it’d be guaranteed that at some point, he’d get out from behind the drums to sing with that huge smile plastered on his face.
This was someone who always looked as though he was having the time of his life, to be fair, he probably was.
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but with Taylor’s death, the Foo Fighters, whatever the future holds for them, will never be the same again.
Inevitably, when a huge Taylor Hawkins tribute concert was announced at Wembley, we were going.
I didn’t care how much it’d cost; I’m never going to be sat on death bed saying, “I regret spending hundreds of pounds going to the Taylor Hawkins tribute”, I’d regret not being there. I even at one point, when getting tickets looked unlikely, gave serious consideration to going to the LA concert.
This would be a chance to celebrate the life of Taylor and in a small way, say thank you.
As more and more names were added to the line-up, it became apparent just how highly thought of and how loved this man was. Rock royalty had all agreed to perform on what was shaping up to be a pretty epic concert. As Dave said himself “Taylor loved jamming and had jammed with pretty much everyone in the industry”.
I couldn’t work out the mechanics of the gig. Would they be guest drumming on Foos songs or singing Foos songs? Would they be doing their own music? Just how would it work?
What I hadn’t considered was that it’d be a mixture of all of the above. It’d be six hours of celebrating the music Taylor loved performed by legends and it really worked.
I never knew how much I needed Josh Homme, Chris Chaney, Omar Hakim and Nile Rodgers performing David Bowie ‘Let’s Dance’ in my life until the 3rd September.
I can’t say I’d ever understood Taylor’s (or anyone’s) Queen obsession but seeing Brian May and Roger Taylor perform ‘Somebody to love’ with the Foo Fighters was surreal – incidentally, Taylor sang on that during his final gig before his death.
I never in a million years thought I’d see Paul McCartney, Brian Johnson or Pretenders live. I could probably throw Liam Gallagher onto that list too.
It’s unlike any gig or concert I’ve ever been to, the definition of mixed emotions.
There was a strange, subdued hush as we walked down to the stadium. There was chatter of course, but there no scumbag touts yelling about how many tickets they had for sale. There were no pop-up stalls selling dodgy, knock-off merchandise. It felt strangely calm; it was almost as though people weren’t entirely sure how to act.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole afternoon, I was excited but sad it was even happening.
At 4:30 on the dot, the remaining Foos walked on to the stage; the cheers were unlike anything I’ve heard at a gig before, it was a cheer that showed support and love for our band, a noise that surged as a visibly choked up Dave Grohl spoke.
It was an afternoon that saw memories shared and stories told, little in sights into what Taylor was like away from music and what he meant to his family and friends.
It was a day of high emotion; there were laughs, there was singing and dancing – the man had a phenomenal taste in music – and there were tears too.
Times Like These has once again taken on yet another meaning after seeing the Dave Grohl struggle to sing the lyrics.
Seeing a 16-year-old Shane Hawkins sit in for his father on My Hero was a real moment. I read an interview with Stewart Copeland (drummer with The Police) saying it made him cry, you and 90 thousand others, Stewart.
That kid stole the show. What a talent he has, he hit those drums with the same force as his dad (and his dad’s best mate). You could see the pride on the faces of the rest of the band as he took it all in his stride and of course, it was the perfect song. I don’t think anyone could watch that moment and not be moved in some way.
The night was brought to a close with entirely acoustic version of Everlong, the same song that often closes a Foos gig. Usually, Dave starts it alone before being joined by the full band, that didn’t happen here. It was just Dave stood alone with his guitar singing to his best mate as thousands of tiny lights lit up the stadium. It was stunningly beautiful.
It was a celebration but tinged with sadness too.
It felt like a community coming together; we spoke to and met people from across the world who all felt they had to be there.
I don’t think my words here have done justice to how special a gig it was
It was a remarkable legacy for Taylor Hawkins and the Foo Fighters.
If that’s the last time I see the Foo Fighters (and I suspect it will be for a good long time), then that’s okay, it was an incredibly special evening and one I’m glad to have been a small part of.
Thank you for the memories and Taylor, I hope you’re enjoying a KFC and champagne, wherever you may be. Rock on!!!!!
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm