As expected, Foo Fighters revealed their new drummer during a livestreamed event on Sunday: And as expected, it’s veteran session man and longtime friend Josh Freese.
The band launches a massive tour — their first without drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died tragically in Colombia last year — in New Hampshire on May 24.
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While the band announced its intention to continue late last year, they went to great lengths not to reveal the identity of their new drummer. They played into this during the opening moments of the livestream, called “Foo Fighters: Preparing Music for Concerts,” which featured all of the members joking around with each other in their rehearsal room, with their guitars on.
In succession, three top-notch drummers knocked on the door — Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee, and Tool’s Danny Carey — saying things like, “There’s a white Mercedes blocking my car” or “Hey I got the PF Changs!” or “I groomed your poodles for you” while the bandmembers said, “We’ll be right there!” or the like.
Finally, a voice is heard shouting, “Um… EXCUSE ME?!” The bandmembers turn and look at Freese, who is sitting behind a drumkit but had been off-camera up to that point. He says, “Can we play a song or something?!” and then the band launches into songs from their new album, “But Here We Are,” which drops June 2.
Amid the songs, there was much typical rock-band-at-rehearsal banter, recalling their early days as musicians — Freese talks at length about a band he played with at Disneyland when he was 12 that was apparently called Polo; “LaCoste opened for you!” one bandmember quips. Later, we see Grohl and Freese going over a part in a universal musician-ese: “It goes ‘diggy-diggy-diggity baw-baw-baw,’” etc. The band also roared through a couple of past hits, including a blazing version of “Monkey Wrench” that found Freese bringing an even punkier energy to the song.
The pre-recorded special may have been a sort of public rehearsal or sound check, but clearly no further rehearsing is needed: The performances were air-tight, with the band discussing only a couple of minor refinements.
Freese, one of the best, most versatile and most experienced rock drummers working today, shows why he’s got the chops to fill the shoes of both Hawkins and Grohl (himself one of the greatest drummers in rock history, although he’s the Foos’ lead singer and rhythm guitarist), playing with just the right amount of steadiness, power and flash. If it was a livestreamed audition for fans, it’s safe to say he passed with flying colors.
It’s not difficult to see why Freese is a great drummer for Foo Fighters. He is a longtime friend of both Grohl and Hawkins, and is a veteran session ace who has performed with Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Puddle of Mudd, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Paramore, the Replacements, Sting and the Vandals — and those are just the rock acts he’s worked with. Over the years he has played with a mind-boggling array of different musicians on more than 300 recordings, from pop to rock to country: His versatility is demonstrated by the fact that at last year’s Coachella festival, he performed with both Danny Elfman, who is both frontman of new wave vets Oingo Boingo and Tim Burton’s favorite film composer, and hyper-pop wizards 100 Gecs — two dramatically different artists that required widely ranging styles, and he delivered with both.
But not only is Freese a deeply experienced and wide-ranging musician who knows the band and its music, his presence solves many of the challenges that anyone stepping into Hawkins’ role might face: He is renowned as one of the top session drummers in the business so he’s well-known to musicians, and the fact that he’s less familiar to the public is actually a plus, so there wouldn’t be any associations from previous bands (even though he’s played with dozens). As his long resume shows, he can play in virtually any style — and at 50, he’s of the same generation as most of the other bandmembers. It is also unclear whether he is now a permanent member of the band or acting in a sort of long-term freelance role; contacted by Variety on Sunday, a rep for the band declined comment. (Head here for more on the potential Foo Fighters drummer candidates.)
“Foo Fighters: Preparing Music for Concerts” is a streaming event on Live Nations Veeps platform “packed with rock & roll (including debut performances of songs from ‘But Here We Are’), exclusive behind the scenes footage, and a few surprises—all captured in the spacious yet homey confines of the band’s own 606 studios.” It is airing exclusively at https://foofighters.veeps.com/, with on-demand repeat viewing enabled through May 24.
“Shows like this don’t happen every day. To take this moment to gather fans worldwide, to give people an opportunity to share in the experience no matter where they are, is a gift. Having a place to make these moments accessible is why we built Veeps and we’re honored to be trusted with delivering this incredible show for Foo Fighters and all of their fans,” said Joel Madden, CEO and Founder, Veeps.
Foo Fighters’ upcoming tour will kick off May 24 at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH.
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