I've followed the Foo Fighters on and off throughout the years since front man Dave Grohl ventured out from behind the drum kit and went out on his own, stepping out of Nirvana's long shadow. They came out fast, full of energy, and for every big, banging number, they had a sweeping, softer song that showed off their versatility. This would be a band that could reach a big audience. Now they feature upright pianos, acoustic guitars, string instruments, and even triangles in their songs, and their albums cross the spectrum of rock and roll. So what do you get when the Foo Fighters and 86,000 fans fill London's Wembley Stadium on a hot summer day in 2008? A hard-hitting, electrifying concert to tell the grandkids about.
Known for housing soccer games, Wembley comfortably gathers a massive collection of people in one spot. Connected to the stage is a gigantic runway on which Grohl runs back and forth, allowing him to get into middle of the sea of people. High panning shots from the ceiling and cranes make for great angles from which to appreciate the size of Wembley and the stage. A massive LCD display towers over the stage, surrounding it on four sides, with lighted graphics running up the pillars. As the camera spins around from overhead to right on the stage floor, you feel like a paper airplane zipping by and looping through every nook and cranny of Wembley.
In order to recreate the concert experience, I didn't look at the set list to see what songs would be played. Not knowing what's coming up is part of the fun of these discs, and you can feel the momentum building from their newer releases to their long established hits. Coming out of the door with "Pretender" the crowd goes from 0-80mph in an instant and doesn't slow down until after 45 minutes have passed. Acoustic guitars come out for "Skin and Bones," "Marigold," and a chilling version of "My Hero." After a solo spotlight for each band member, the night ramps up for their older hits like "Everlong" and "Monkey Wrench" barreling towards the big finish.
Before playing their last song, "Best of You," the band had a big surprise waiting for the 86,000 fans in Wembley: Led Zepplin's legendary lead guitarist, Jimmy Page and bassist, John Paul Jones walked onto stage to play "Rock and Roll" and "Ramble On". It was a great opportunity for the fans of Wembley to see that, but it had to be a thrill for any modern rock band to be able to play Led Zepplin songs, with two of the members, in the land where they started. Both Page and Jones have still got it and it's apparent that Grohl and crew were loving every minute of it. These rare and special performances are the very things you want out of both a concert experience and a concert disc. There's no big encore, but these guys play for a solid two hours straight, and with this disc you're right in the sweet spot for sitting and watching a concert. And a sweet one it is.
1. "The Pretender"
2. "Times Like These"
3. "No Way Back"
4. "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up is Running)"
5. "Learn to Fly"
6. "Long Road to Ruin"
8. "Stacked Actors"
9. "Skin and Bones"
11. "My Hero"
12. "Cold Day in the Sun"
14. "Monkey Wrench"
15. "All My Life"
16. "Rock and Roll"
17. "Ramble On"
18. "Best of You"
The 1080p HD AVC encoded transfer can be classified as clear and clean and the detail and depth are truly incredible. You can clearly see the heads and hands of 86,000 people as the camera pans over the massive Wembley crowd. The chrome in the drums sparkles and you can see fingerprints and scratches in the guitars. There's probably no way to fully appreciate the sheer size of Wembley Stadium and the acoustics without physically standing in the middle of the field, but from the fine editing and clever cinematography, you still get the genuine feeling of "being there".
The fog machine is almost always present and the various lighting set-ups in the concert can make the video appear washed out at times, but you can still see the specs of dust and fog in the air. Strong contrast is displayed, with nothing too bright or blown out. Fleshtones are natural with no oversaturation. As a whole, it's a great visual presentation.
There are three ways to listen to this concert: Uncompressed PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640 kbps, and the preferred uncompressed PCM sound at 48kHz/24 bit. The latter track just gives that cherry-on-top bliss of an encompassing listening experience. You'll scroll through the options thinking, "Good. Nice. THERE!"
One shortcoming in the disc is that the lead guitars and Grohl's mic are what you'll hear the most and likely remember. The lower and deeper range of the drums just isn't as strong as I'd like them to be. Taylor Hawkings' work on snares and hi-hats are captured, but the kick drum and Nate Mendel's bass guitar could have been more present. The crowd singing and chanting is never overwhelming, in fact it's pretty cool when they sing back-up to Grohl on "My Hero." Rear channels are highly active as a result of that massive audience and the echoing of the mic, mostly when Grohl addresses the crowd. Fireworks are let off just before and during the credits and those are pushed to the back channels as well as a really nice way to close out the disc. The mix of the instruments could have been balanced better, but it does recreate the stadium experience in your living room.
Outside of being able to jump directly to whichever song/chapter, there are no extras of any sort or high definition exclusives.
Kung Foo lives on on Blu-ray. The Wembley concert has been captured with a technically sound treatment. The great roving camera, candid close-ups, and detailed transfer show you what you wouldn't be able to see by just sitting in one seat. While the mix could have been balanced more towards the lower end, the rest of the arrangement is sturdy, and the audio experience of Wembley stadium feels accurate. There are no extras to speak of, but don't let that dissuade you from a top performance that shows just what great showmen the Foo Fighters can be with a set that's energetic from beginning to end and bulldozes through two hours in a eye-blink. If you're even remotely a fan of the Foo Fighters or any of their music, the Wembley Stadium Concert on Blu-ray comes highly recommended!