Passing up a Foo Fighters concert is tragic and inexcusable. With tickets still available at showtime on Friday, only a meager two-thirds of the roughly 7,000-seat Reno Events Center were occupied at the end of the night.
Excitement was building as 8 p.m. rolled near. The still-forming crowd huddled around the stage with the expectation of seeing Against Me! play on the dot.
But as a small ripple of sound pierced the cold air, a chick wearing skin-tight white spandex pants held up by red suspenders and suction cupped to her thighs by tacky brown boots, walked out on stage. Last I checked, there are no chicks in Against Me!
With a headache-inducing scream that blew out the ear drums of audience members standing too close to the amplifiers, Hello Stranger was officially the "warm-up band."
Overly eccentric, Hello Stranger's awkward stage presence was augmented by spastic flashing lights that started to kill the crowd's interest. As if the Pat Benatar-esque band knew it was time to redeem themselves, Hello Stranger closed their 30-minute set with a cover of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Lead singer, Juilette Commagere, played a keytar as the rest of her band played around her, recovering an otherwise forgettable performance.
After Hello Stranger, road crews removed the smoke and mirrors from the stage and set up Against Me!'s minimal, yet dramatic stage.
Solemnly walking into their sterile interrogation room created by the searing bright white stage lights that bounced off the black stage and into their eyes, Against Me! wore black jeans and black shirts as their uniform of oppression and revived the crowd without saying a word.
Lead singer and guitarist Tom Gabel growled out contemplatively cranky lyrics about governmental wrong-doings and social issues that echoed through the still half-empty events center. A crowd of dedicated fans fought each other to get closer to the stage and pumped their fists in unison as they yelled the lyrics back at the fiesty Florida foursome.
Full of energy until the very end, bassist Andrew Seward jumped around the stage non-stop. Even when Gabel lifted a water bottle to his bandmate's mouth between songs, Seward never stopped playing during the whole 45-minute set.
As the lights went down on Against Me! the events center began to buzz impatiently. While Against Me! could have played for another three hours and the crowd would have been content, something loomed in the air. An energy. An excitement. Anticipation. For how often do the Foo Fighters come to Reno? Never.
House lights went down, stage lights went up and TV screens flickered at the back of the stage as a silhouette of Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl, was escorted onto the stage by the crowd's piercing screams.
Grohl's voice painfully belted out a short verse from "Let it Die," a song from the band's new album, "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace." It was a melodic intro for what turned out to be a non-stop two-hour set.
Slipping seamlessly into full-on rock mode, Foo Fighters hit the crowd with "Pretender" and amped up the visual stage effects with images from the music video. It became clear by the third song, "Times Like These," that the Foo Fighters were here to do something more than just play. They wanted to make the audience think, too. But after so many serious songs, Grohl, who was recovering from the flu, stopped the music and addressed the fact that the Foo Fighters had to cancel shows earlier in the week.
"I said we can cancel Arkansas and we can cancel Oklahoma, but there is no way in hell we'd cancel Reno," Grohl said with an enthusiastic but raspy voice.
The audience then learned something about Grohl: If his music career were to end tomorrow, he could always do stand-up comedy.
"Well, I am contractually obligated, so I couldn't cancel," Grohl chuckled.
If Grohl hadn't said he was sick, no one would have known. The Foo Fighters played an amazing set of new songs intertwined with their earlier hits like "Hero" and "Everlong," which were both given acoustic makeovers but always with a rock twist, never sappy like acoustic sets can be.
Grohl is entitled to be a snotty rock star if he wanted to be, but it is apparent that he is a musical genius who doesn't know it. He is humble, a joker and ultimately creative in his stage presence.
As some of the crowd unknowingly began to file out a little after 11 p.m. TV screens displayed the evening's set list, then Grohl's mustache appeared in all it's night-vision glory.
"More?" he mouthed.
The Foo Fighters came back out on stage and played for another 30 minutes, capping off the night with "Best of You," which Grohl explained has been played at every show since the band wrote it for 2005's "In Your Honor." But by this time, Grohl is barely able to scream out the emotional lyrics and the crowd reluctantly admitted that the energic rollercoaster of a rock show had come to an end.
The Foo Fighters have created a rock concert standard for Reno, and maybe next time you'll think twice about being too cheap to buy a ticket. Understand, you get what you pay for and the Foo Fighters are worth every penny.