In times like these, you do indeed learn to live again.
That was the resounding and rejuvenating spirit of the live music experience coming rocking back to life with the Foo Fighters at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. Yes, on Father’s Day evening, the grandaddy of all arenas held its first concert since COVID shut the party down in March 2020.
And after the Sunday-chill sounds of The Commodores’ “Easy” set the mood for them to take the stage, the hard-rocking Foo Fighters didn’t waste any time launching into what is probably their best-known tune, “Times Like These,” which would typically have been saved for the end of the show. When the song was over, Foo frontman Dave Grohl raised his right arm triumphantly as a load roar let out across the Garden.
At that moment, no words were needed from Grohl — or anyone else. It was all about that roar, a communal release that concertgoers had been waiting 15 long months to have together again.
With Grohl seemingly not wanting to waste a minute talking when he and his band could at long last be playing to a live audience, the Foo Fighters kept on swinging, going straight from “Times Like These” into “The Pretender.”
Then finally a revved-up Grohl said, “We’ve been waiting for this! We’ve been waiting for the rock and roll . . . Do you want rock and roll?” After asking the latter question three times, the collective “yes” only got bigger and bigger — in just one of the times that the Foos and their delirious fans threatened to rip the roof off of the Garden.
The last time MSG got rocked by any act was when the Brothers — including some longtime Allman Brothers Band members — celebrated the music of ABB on March 10, 2020.
And even as this was a banging jolt of normalcy, this was still a very different world from the last time concertgoers fist-pumped and sang along to every song — sometimes annoyingly — in the stands. This time, you had to show proof of vaccination — a requirement that drew anti-vax protesters outside of MSG — and there were some who were still masked up inside even after that.
But the audience and the staff largely went without masks. Still, there were hand-sanitizer stations all around, which have no doubt been in place since the Knicks and Rangers started playing to crowds again in February.
And there were surely those (yours truly included) who had some anxiety about shouting in maskless strangers’ faces over the music.
Even before the Foos took the stage, fans were already standing. “I’m excited. I just bought my ticket today. It’s gonna be awesome,” said Justin Stags, 18, of West Milford, NJ, who was rocking a navy-blue Nirvana “Nevermind” shirt in homage to Grohl’s former band. “Somebody stepped on my shoes in the hallway, and they were apologizing. And I was like, ‘No, please step on my shoes! I haven’t been this close to people in so long.’ ”
As if the night weren’t already emotional enough with the return of concerts at the Garden, the show was dedicated to the Foos’ longtime stage manager, Andy Pollard, who died suddenly on Friday. Pollard even got some love on the MSG Jumbotron on Seventh Avenue.
But at the end of the day, nothing could steal the joy of the return of live music to the Garden. Pat B., an usher at MSG who didn’t want to give her last name, summed it up best: “Rock and roll is back.”