Here’s what it was like – Daily Bulletin

Dave Grohl might be the happiest rock star of his generation, and as the Foo Fighters played their first show in front of a live audience since the pandemic shuttered venues large and small in March 2020, the ebullient frontman was beyond joyful.

“Guess what? Y’all got yourself a rock concert right now, that’s what!” Grohl shouted as the band took the stage at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood to close out Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World on Sunday night in Inglewood.

And between each of the half-dozen songs that followed, he expressed the same joyous sentiment in different ways — incredulous, appreciative, and super stoked among his emotions.

Related: Vax Live concert at SoFi Stadium celebrates first responders with Jennifer Lopez, Prince Harry, H.E.R. and more

For the more than 20,000 fans who scored tickets to the vaccine awareness and advocacy benefit on Sunday, it was equally wonderful. At long last, live music had returned to Southern California, and add to that a chance to be there at the debut of SoFi Stadium as a major new concert venue.

Vax Live wasn’t a traditional show by any means. The performances at the COVID-19 vaccine awareness and advocacy show were intended first for a taped broadcast to air on Saturday, May 8, and second as a live musical event.

Even so, between Foo Fighters’ terrific 40-minute set to wrap up the night and shorter one- and two-song performances by Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, J Balvin and H.E.R., the fully vaccinated and socially distanced audience had plenty to savor.

Vedder played first, walking out with his band onto a stage located at what in SoFi’s day job as an NFL stadium would be midfield. After actor Sean Penn introduced his friend, Vedder and the band tore through a cover of Fugazi’s “Give Me The Cure.”

“This is a feeling we haven’t had for quite some time,” Vedder said before starting his second song, Pearl Jam’s “I Am a Patriot.” “This is crazy. There’s a microphone, there’s a crowd. It feels good.”

The stadium, which is home to both the Rams and Chargers, worked well for the concert. Cushioned seats and decent legroom made for comfortable viewing. Fans were seated on the field and in the first three of four main levels facing the stage.

H.E.R. played a single song, “Glory,” accompanied by dozens of Los Angeles school kids who’ve learned guitar through the Fender Play Foundation. The song had a gospel feel mixed with H.E.R. and the kids’ guitar riffs, and was performed in the stadium parking lot as healthcare workers gave drive-thru vaccinations.

Inside SoFi, the stadium’s state-of-the-art translucent roof, a moveable canopy, actually was closed for the show. In addition to the screens behind the stage, visuals during performances were also beamed to the giant oval of video screens that hangs high above the field.

Lopez made the first of her two appearances on a stage packed with plants to create a wilderness feel; there were so many plants that her musicians were mostly hidden behind them as she sang Neil Diamond‘s “Sweet Caroline,” a song her mother Lupe, who eventually joined her, often sang to her as a child. It was over in less time than it took to bring all those plants on stage, but it gave the audience a chance to sing along. So good, so good.

J. Balvin had an equally elaborate stage set, in his case what looked like an asteroid or the Moon with the top lopped off so he could open his short set from a sort of cockpit of the rock. During “Otra Noche Sin Ti,” the first of two songs, Balvin, who caught COVID-19 last summer, urged everyone to get the vaccine when they can.

“It’s not something you ever want to get,” he told them. “The simple answer is to get the vaccine.”

Lopez then returned for her second song, “I Ain’t Your Mother,” during which she held her opening pose, surrounded by two dozen dancers, while first host Selena Gomez and then Chrissy Teigen botched their introduction and had to redo them for the broadcast tape.

“I just made a fool of myself in front of J. Lo,” Gomez groaned.

“I (bleeped) up too, Selena!” Teigen said, laughing a few minutes later.

All of that served as a musical amuse-bouche to the main course the Foo Fighters served. Placed last in the live order, Grohl and the band, who were introduced on stage by David Letterman, opened with a full-throated roar through “All My Life.”

The sound quality of that song and the five that followed was excellent for any large venue, but especially one outdoors. The muddy boom of some indoor sports arenas wasn’t a problem here. The band played as loud as rock and roll is intended, but Grohl’s vocals remained clear and intelligible throughout.

“Everlong” was beautiful in its emotional punch, and the fact that it followed “All My Life” in the way a concert should — song, bit of banter, song — at last made the night feel more concert, less TV taping.

AC/DC singer Brian Johnson then joined Foo Fighters for his band’s classic “Back In Black,” during which you could tell the band was having a blast playing it as hard and loud as they could.

“Times Like These” was particularly moving, given how its lyrics fit the night’s theme of reemergence from the pandemic shutdown: “It’s times like these you learn to live again / It’s times like these you give and give again.”

At one point Grohl said the band was only supposed to play three songs, but they were now “just flying by the seat of our pants. We’re just going to play until they kick us off.”

For the audience of frontline and essential workers — healthcare, public safety, education featured among them — the band dedicated the song “My Hero,” on which the crowd sang along loudly on the choruses. Before their final number, “Best Of You,” the singer again told the audience how thrilled he is to have a literal dream come mostly true.

“The last year I’ve been having this dream that’s happening right now,” Grohl said. “I’m on stage, people are jumping around. And then I wake up and we’re not there yet.

“Human beings need to come together to share music in a communal setting because that’s what we do,” he said. “So let’s get there.”

Exiting the stadium might have been the least successful part of the entire concert experience. Some of the escalators that take you out of the stadium weren’t working on Sunday. One shut off mid-escalation at night’s end, leading to lines backing up for a bit.

But who’s going to quibble about an opening night glitch or two? Dave Grohl can tell you — actually, shout at you — “This is a rock concert!” and the first one in more than a year at that, little things don’t really matter very much.

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