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Foo Fighters initiate tour, new Washington venue with rousing set

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WASHINGTON —  Foo Fighters not only kicked off a mammoth global tour Thursday but also christened a new concert venue.

The band’s frontman, Dave Grohl, who grew up in nearby Alexandria, Va., before becoming the drummer for Nirvana, fed off the festival-like atmosphere inside The Anthem, a new 6,000-capacity theater along Washington’s developing southwest waterfront.

Early on in the 2½-hour set, Grohl ventured to the front of the stage and put both hands on his heart as the rapturous crowd serenaded him with the chorus of Learn To Fly, a soaring hit from the 1999 album There Is Nothing Left to Lose

Soon after, Grohl told the crowd he had asked the music hall’s owner   about a curfew. “There isn’t one!” he informed the raucous revelers.

Compared with other stops on the Foo Fighters tour, which continues this month throughout the Midwest and Southeast, this new venue is small. 

The sardine-packed standing crowd pulsed with excitement.  Throughout the 22-song set, the band interspersed grungy greatest hits from their two decade-plus career, such as All My Life and Monkey Wrench, with new material from the band’s latest album, Concrete and Gold, released last month. 

That mixture satisfied the crowd, which sang — or screamed — the chorus of Best of You.

Along with Grohl, who wields a guitar, lead guitarist Chris Shiflett, rhythm guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel created a hefty wall of hard rock sound.

Drummer Taylor Hawkins handled vocals on new, psychedelic-tinged song Sunday Rain and the Rolling Stones’ Bitch. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee rounds out the band, which brought out a trio of backup singers for some songs.

A musical high point was Congregation from 2014’s Sonic Highways. The escalating, rhapsodic song unleashed midway through the set transformed the venue into a raucous rock cathedral.

Grohl mentioned neither the passing of fellow rocker Tom Petty, for whom he played drums for a 1994 Saturday Night Live broadcast, nor the city’s baseball team, the Washington Nationals, who 2 miles away were about to be knocked out of the playoffs by the Chicago Cubs.

He did thank the city for “the best childhood a person could ever ask for.”

Grohl has become a standard bearer for hard rock music: He  directed and produced the documentary Sound City, about the famous L.A. recording studio, and 2014 HBO series Sonic Highways, about music across the USA.

Grohl and his fellow Foos are even more revelatory in the flesh.

More: Watch: Foo Fighters, James Corden rock out in epic ‘Carpool Karaoke’

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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Last month the Foo Fighters lead singer and rhythm guitarist fell off-stage while touring Europe.
Unfortunately for fans of the band, Dave Grohl broke his leg during the fall leading to cancelled Summer festival dates.
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