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Foo Fighters marry punk, rock during vibrant set

Wow. A full arena made it clear during a sold-out show Sunday evening that the Foo Fighters have done a good job of marrying hard rock and punk. How did this happen? Could such a band bring underground music over ground?

Is it possible for punk to mean something on such a grand scale? Doesn't the sheer size of the audience wipe out any notion of a Foo Fighters show actually bringing a crowd toward the sort of action that might've happened at a Fugazi show way back when, or even a Minor Threat gig back in the day when guys like Dave Grohl were having their minds blown by a whole new tribe of songwriters, musicians and bands?

Yeah, it is, although it should be noted that a full surrender to the powers of just plain music is best acted out at home, with headphones on, rather than at an arena. But whatever. Did you feel it Sunday, if you were there? Wasn't this about as close as arena rock is ever gonna get to "legitimate" punk?

I think so. Touring behind the band's newest effort, the damn fine "Wasting Light," the Foos -- led, naturally, by former Nirvana drummer Grohl, who now is the frontman, singer, songwriter, guitarist and leader -- simply tore up the arena with a lengthy set of songs that referenced every aspect of what is by now a nearly 20-year career.

The band kicked it off with a pair of songs from its latest, in the form of "Bridges Burning" and "Rope," a pair of songs that laid the template for the evening. Both of these songs are brilliant marriages of punk grit and hard rock release. This is the genius of Grohl and the Foos. The band is able to harness underground punk energy and present it in a fashion that an arena crowd might understand. That's huge.

We got the big "anthems," of course. But for once, at least as far as "modern rock" is concerned, these didn't come off as pandering. "My Hero" felt like what it is -- a massive slab of big rock wrapped around a killer hook. "Learn To Fly" reflected Grohl's love for R.E.M, appropriately. "Alandria" and "Breakout" reminded us that a well-written song can still be fodder for a complete audience freak out.

Leader Grohl certainly didn't shy away from his assumed duties as ringmaster. Frankly speaking, Grohl didn't so much attempt to pull the crowd into his world as he did make it plain that his world was the same as theirs. That's a big difference. One that can make a large-scale show feel like a continuation of a conversation started, oh, 20 years ago. Or not.

Employing a satellite stage, which he ran to whenever the mood struck him, Grohl led the Foos through more than two hours' worth of vibrant rock-punk. You could bang your head to it, and never lose the melody. A late-set "Monkey Wrench" made this idea plain -- the Foos can kick it old-school punk style, and yet still retain a tunefulness not heard in a hard rock band with such consistency since Cheap Trick's heyday.



Foo Fighters With Rise Against and Mariachi el Bronx.

Sunday evening in First Niagara Center.