Springsteen on Broadway aside, few musicians would step away from the cocoon of their band to deliver an exhaustive, self-penned on-stage monologue about their life and career. Dave Grohl is one of the even fewer who can carry it off. The ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters singer used lockdown to write his imminent memoir, The Storyteller. Tonight, dressed all in black, lanky of body and lank of hair, he sits on a high stool and riffs on its themes via a stream of self-deprecating rock anecdotes, interspersed with one-man renditions of his greatest hits.
Famously personable, Grohl is an engaging raconteur, albeit one with a spectacularly potty mouth. His ability to cram a swearword into any conversation arguably peaks when he recalls a penurious childhood eating “motherfucking scrambled-egg sandwiches”. His enthusiasm is winning as he describes a youth in thrall to music and to US punk rock. Loping around the stage, he demonstrates how he played along to Beatles songs and taught himself to drum on sofa cushions, before joining a local Virginia hardcore punk band, Scream.
Grohl is at his most poignant describing his time in Nirvana. Wide-eyed, he recalls moving at warp speed from sleeping on a couch in the Seattle hovel he shared with Kurt Cobain and a crazed turtle, to seeing their homespun band knock Michael Jackson off the top of the US charts in 1991. “We were kids, man! How do you deal with that?” he wonders, even now. It’s thrilling to watch him sit down to pulverise his drums again to a recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit, but the crack in his voice as he describes Cobain’s death betrays how devastated he was by loss of his singer and friend.
Yet angst is not Grohl’s stock in trade, and he’s back in perky, positivist mode for the second half of the show. He straps on a guitar for a few Foo Fighters numbers, including My Hero, then transforms into a stand-up comic as he admits to a health-threatening coffee addiction. Much like his book, or a Foo Fighters gig, this show goes on a bit and could be trimmed. But it’s impossible to dislike Grohl, a rock’n’roll survivor who endured unspeakable tragedy and came out of the other end smiling.