Taylor Hawkins London Tribute: A Parade of Legendary Stars

Dave Grohl organized and hosted an epic six-hour tribute concert to his fallen Foo Fighter drummer and BFF Taylor Hawkins on September 3 which featured surprise legendary guests, a reunion, and many stars who have lost bandmates themselves. 

Over 75,000 fans packed Wembley Stadium for a bittersweet celebration of the affable drummer who died this March in Bogota, Columbia of an accidental drug overdose. Being the drummer in a band helmed by one of the most admired drummers in rock, could not have been easy at first, but Hawkins fit in perfectly with the Foo Fighters, and drove the beat behind Grohl for 25 hugely successful years. 

Along the way Hawkins became known for his likability, uncanny rock trivia, and epitomizing the Muppets' Animal in human form behind the drums. 

50 songs were performed by members of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Queen, and Rush. The children of stars took to the stage. The guest stars who sat on the drummers throne throughout the event ranged from beatmakers of Blink-182, Devo, The Police, and Metallica. 

Since this show was set in London, former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher was an appropriate choice to take the stage first with the Foo Fighters backing him. While the two Oasis tunes he belted out ("Rock 'n' Roll Star" and  "Live Forever") might have been a wee bit on the nose, subtlety rarely pays off in a football arena.

Watching Grohl on drums behind Gallagher was quite an auditory and visual delight and a painful reminder that the Foo Fighters would never have its blonde drummer back there again. 

Next up was Niles Rodgers, the only non-rock performer on the line-up. The influential producer, songwriter, and guitarist of Chic, Rodgers co-wrote "We Are Family" for Sister Sledge and "I'm Coming Out" for Diana Ross. Not only did he help make Disco huge, he says Disco is Chic. But why would a forefather of Disco be invited to a celebration of a rock drummer's life? Look no further than the MC of the evening, Grohl, who recently admitted to Pharrell Williams (who collaborated with Rodgers and Daft Punk on "Get Lucky") that his most famous Nirvana drum beat from "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is lifted from Disco groups like the Gap Band and other peers of Rodgers.

To honor both Hawkins and David Bowie, Rodgers was joined by Queens of the Stone Age's frontman Josh Homme, veteran drummer Omar Hakim, and Chris Chaney on bass for a pair of Bowie tunes from 1983's Let's Dance.

Chaney's inclusion was especially apropos as he and Hawkins met while they were in Alanis Morissette's band before Grohl employed the drummer. Years later when Hawkins formed one of his many pop-up side projects, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, he recruited his old pal Chaney to join.

One reason Hawkins formed little bands was because Grohl found himself in non-Foo projects himself. When Grohl began drumming for Queens of the Stone Age, Hawkins formed the cover band Chevy Metal. The "goof" band, as Hawkins deemed it, was so fun and well-received, they wrote original songs for it. Grohl himself would jam with the band and even wrote a 9-minute opus for the group.

Chevy Metal followed Rodgers with two covers: "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads, and the T-Rex anthem "Children of the Revolution."

The latter was fronted by Kesha who let it all hang out. The pop singer was recently part of the 2020 Marc Bolan tribute album AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T.Rex where she performed the tune alongside a full band, strings and horns. She was prepared to rock it out with Chevy Metal.

What followed next were three original tunes by the aforementioned Coattail Riders. And that's when something very interesting happened.

Guitar great Eddie Van Halen tragically died in 2020. Due to COVID restrictions, tributes like this were impossible a few years back. So to honor his father, as well as Hawkins, Eddie's only child, Wolfgang Van Halen, performed two covers from his dad's band - a group Wolf toured with for a few years himself.

Wolfgang fronts his own band, Mammoth, and to distinguish himself from his iconic guitar hero father, he has refused to play VH covers live, despite unrelenting requests.

But the other day, in front of that enormous crowd, Wolf lived up to his tweet. He did not play "Panama" but casually rocked the hell out of "On Fire" from VH's debut album and "Hot For Teacher" off 1984. Justin Hawkins (no relation) of The Darkness filled in beautifully for David Lee Roth, and even donned a spandex catsuit for extra effect.

Grohl, now on bass, watched with glee as Van Halen shredded the Van Halen hits on a battered EVH guitar while utilizing his father's oft-copied finger-tapping technique.

After a pair of tunes led by Grohl's daughter, Violet, and a couple from Supergrass, a surprise reunion took place. In 2009, Grohl took a break from the Foo Fighters by teaming up with Homme and Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to form Them Crooked Vultures. Although they only released one album, its single won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Grohl quipped that they practice only once a decade and lucky for those in attendance, the time was apparently right for a few tunes from the super group including a cover of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," highlighted by a vocal from Homme that sounded eerily like the piano man.

The best impromptu comeback of the day came when The Pretenders took the stage. Led by the eternally cool Chrissie Hynde, who has a long history in London where, as a teenager, she worked in the Kings Road punk fashion boutique Sex owned by Malcolm Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood.

Alongside Grohl on bass, The Pretenders revisited three of their hits including "Precious" and "Brass in Pocket." Truly impressed by her temporary bandmate, Hynde asked, “Dave Grohl on bass - is there anything that man can’t play?”

To which Grohl said, without missing a beat: "golf.”

So precious.


Before spending much of her life in the UK, Hynde was born in Ohio. Another native of the Buckeye state is Joe Walsh, who began his illustrious career in 1970 fronting the gnarly rockin' James Gang. The classic rock radio staple is scheduled to reunite in November for a military veterans fundraiser in Columbus, Ohio. Also on the bill will be Nine Inch Nails, The Breeders, The Black Keys and... Dave Grohl [good seats still available].

Not only has Grohl been a fan for quite a while, but Taylor was so into them, just look whose font he borrowed from when he crafted the logo for The Coattail Riders:

When Walsh, his gang, and Grohl completed "Funk #49" it was only song #25 of the concert.

Half of the show was still to come. The second half was a marvel of its own.

Keeping to the unofficial theme of the dearly departed, Brian Johnson of AC/DC took to the stage to perform. In the long history of rock, never has a singer come in to succeed a tragically fallen singer of a band and lead them to the success to the extent of Back in Black. 50 million albums have been sold of the 1980 hard rock classic, making it the #2 most popular record in history behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Johnson sang the title track of that album, alongside a giddy Justin Hawkins - who he apparently called up on stage.

Then the group belted out a Bon Scott-era AC/DC crowd favorite "Let There Be Rock," with Grohl gyrating on guitar to the fast-paced blues riff. None other than Lars Ulrich kept the beat on drums. The Metallica co-founder is no stranger to tragedy. Cliff Burton who performed on the first three Metallica albums was killed when the band's tour bus hit a patch of black ice in Sweden. The 24 year-old bassist was the only fatality.

Like Hynde, despite being American, Stewart Copeland hit it big in the UK when he was a vital member of The Police. Aspiring drummers in the MTV era looked at Copeland, Neil Peart of Rush, and Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain for inspiration. No doubt Grohl did too.

Copeland joined the Foo Fighters for a duo of Police numbers including "Everything She Does Is Magic" with Gaz of Supergrass handing the vocals.

Speaking of Rush, the remaining members of the Canadian trio performed three hits, the overture of the mini rock opera 2112 and "Working Man" with Grohl on drums. Then they nailed the instrumental "YYZ" with the host in the unenvious position of trying to mimic Peart on the tune known for its challenging 10/8 time signature. Spoiler: Grohl nailed it.

But then again, what a better song to be performed among some of the greatest drummers in music, than such a tough one named after the Toronto airport? Taylor would have happily accepted the challenge.

Not to be outdone, the remaining members of Queen reeled off five songs fronted by Luke Spiller of The Struts.

Any fan of the Foo Fighters knows how important Queen was to their music. Before Queen took to the stage, an older video was projected of Hawkins telling a crowd that Queen's drummer Roger Taylor was his mentor.

Sharp-eyed Setlist readers probably already know that the Foo Fighters have covered Queen many times in concert. The Foos performed "Under Pressure" 178 times, "Somebody to Love" 33 times, and "We Will Rock You" 8 times.

As if that was not nearly enough rock, the Foo Fighters then closed out the evening with an entire set of a dozen hits from their deep songbook.

Beginning with an emotional rendition of "Times Like These," Grohl sang to the crowd who helped him as he fought through what must have been intense sadness. Josh Freese who has played with bands from DEVO to the Replacements provided the beat on drums.

But Freese would not be the last drummer of the night. Not by a long shot.

The most tattooed member of the Kardashians, Travis Barker sat in the hot seat for raucous versions of "The Pretender" and "Monkey Wrench."

Then the adorable 12 year-old phenom, Nandi Bushell performed "Learn to Fly" with the band. You may remember how Nandi reached out to Grohl last year and the two used Zoom to get to know each other... a friendship that led to Bushnell performing with the Foos at a show in LA.

Roger Taylor's son, Rufus, the drummer of The Darkness, sat in for "These Days" and "Best of You."

Then some guy named Paul McCartney wandered on stage and convinced the band to play "Oh! Darling" and "Helter Skelter" with him. Chrissie Hynde, fortunately recognized this chap and the band he claimed to once have belonged to and helped out on backing vocals.

But that still wasn't the grand finale. That was left to Taylor's son, 16 year-old Oliver Shane Hawkins who took to the drum throne like and old pro and hit those skins with all the power and fury of his old man on "My Hero," a song people often assume is a tribute Grohl wrote for his former bandmate Kurt Cobain. Grohl denies it.

The night ended with Grohl, alone, with his acoustic guitar serenading the sea of fans -- most of whom experienced the entire show -- with a somber version of "Everlong."

Taylor Hawkins Tribute Show - London

There will be a second tribute show for Taylor Hawkins in Los Angeles on September 27 - tickets are sold out.

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Last updated: 2 Oct 2022, 15:02 Etc/UTC