15 Ways the Taylor Hawkins L.A. Show Rocked a ‘Little Bit Harder’
From the first note, it was clear that the Los Angeles Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert would be different from its U.K. counterpart.
Rather than open the evening with a speech to the crowd, as Dave Grohl had done in London, he handed the spotlight to his daughter Violet. The young singer was joined by Alain Johannes to perform the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.” While London had several subdued, heartbreaking moments along these lines, this proved to be the most poignant part of the Los Angeles show. Instead, the concert’s tone was more like a loud, heavy-hitting wake.
“This show compared to the London show, this fucking shit rocks a little bit harder,” Grohl noted roughly halfway through the night’s performances. He was right – and here are 15 ways it did.
Joan Sings Her (Black) Heart Out
Earnest, sincere and emotional, Joan Jett’s early set at the second Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert set the tone for the rest of the night. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer often comes across as tough as nails (because she is), but here Jett allowed herself to be vulnerable, opening up about her friendship with Hawkins. While fighting back tears, she called the drummer “such a beautiful person” and admitted she was “honored that he was a fan of mine.” “We’ll form a supergroup when I get there with you,” Jett declared, before proceeding to blaze through renditions of "Cherry Bomb" and "Bad Reputation," backed by Foo Fighters, with Travis Barker on drums.
Justin Hawkins: Underrated Star
The Darkness is best known for “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” a 2003 single that became a worldwide hit. And while the band has enjoyed continued success abroad, the song remains their high-water mark in the U.S. It’s a shame that American audiences haven’t embraced the band and its dynamic frontman more. First in London, then again in Los Angeles, Justin Hawkins has proven to be a powerhouse onstage. Blessed with a wide range and charisma to spare, the singer was a consistent force in L.A.
Kesha Accidentally Flashes the Crowd
Pop star Kesha was one of the many ladies who took center stage Tuesday night. Dressed in a revealing, mirror-ball-like ensemble, the singer joined Hawkins’ celebrated cover band Chevy Metal for a rendition of the David Bowie classic “Heroes.” Kesha did the classic song justice, but one unexpected part of her passionate performance was that her outfit couldn’t hold up. Still, she wouldn’t let a little wardrobe malfunction slow her down, even if it did show the audience more than she had wanted. “Taylor would have loved that my tits just fell out,” Kesha declared, laughing off the incident.
Is there any other band that could pull together so many artists, spanning both vast genres and broad eras? Classic stars, modern hitmakers and up-and-coming acts - all of them were on hand at the Forum. Foo Fighters – especially Grohl and Hawkins – have long made a habit of celebrating, and often befriending, their musical heroes. At the same time, they’ve served as mentors to younger bands that have risen in prominence in the past 25 years. That appeal could be seen in the crowd as well, the demographic spanning teens to people in their 60s. During their quarter-century career, the Foos have firmly cemented their place as a bridge between classic rock and modern acts. The lineup in Los Angeles reflected this, as material performed at the show covered six decades' worth of rock. No other act could assemble such a cross-generational collection of acts.
Wolfgang Van Halen Breaks His Own Rule
More than a year ago, Wolfgang Van Halen tweeted “I’m not fuckin’ playing ‘Panama’ for you guys” - a reference to the insistent requests he receives to perform classic Van Halen songs. Some rules are meant to be broken. On Tuesday night, Van Halen was joined by Dave Grohl, drummer Josh Freese and singer Justin Hawkins for an incendiary rendition of “Panama.” The crowd ate up every second of the performance, especially when Van Halen showed he could shred like his old man. To be clear, Wolfgang Van Halen has certainly earned his success as a solo star, scoring a hit radio song and even receiving a Grammy nomination (he lost to Foo Fighters). He has little to prove, and there’s no reason he has to perform Van Halen songs. It’s just wild when he does.
Josh Homme, the Chameleon
Josh Homme showed off his range at Tuesday's tribute concert, rocking through material from a variety of different artists. He performed songs from his bands Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, but he also delivered a cover of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and later took vocals on a pair of Cars classics, “Shake It Up” and “Just What I Needed,” alongside that band's Elliot Easton. Through all the varying material, Homme was as engaging and powerful as always - a reminder of what makes him such a magnetic frontman.
Keep ‘Em Wanting More
With so many amazing acts but a mere six hours to work with, the hits came quickly and the changes even faster. Little lag time between performers meant the show flowed at a steady pace. Sets were short, with most acts given two or three songs. Foo Fighters had the longest performance, with a closing set of 11 songs long (Queen came in second with a five-song set). On the other end of the spectrum, Nancy Wilson performed only one song, but it was memorable. The Heart guitarist tore through a rendition of “Barracuda” with special guest Pink.
Similar to Wilson, Alanis Morissette’s appearance was brief yet extremely memorable. This singer came out unannounced, taking the stage as drummer Chad Smith began playing the familiar backbeat of “You Oughta Know.” Hawkins was Morissette’s drummer during the Jagged Little Pill tour, and it was clear his death still weighed on the singer. Morissette channeled those emotions into an engrossing performance, pacing the stage as she sang her 1995 hit.
Bach, Butler and Ulrich
When you get a dynamic singer like Sebastian Bach fronting metal legends like Geezer Butler and Lars Ulrich, good things are bound to happen. The trio – joined by Foo Fighters – blazed through the Black Sabbath classics “Supernaut” and “Paranoid.” The former Skid Row singer thrashed his head back and forth as he belted out his vocals. Meanwhile, Butler and Ulrich provided the songs' rhythms, adding a dose of metal to the night’s festivities. "Los Angeles, are you ready to kick some fuckin' ass?" Bach screamed early in the performance. With this kind of power, the crowd didn’t have a choice.
It Takes Three Drummers to Replace Neil Peart
Neil Peart remains one of the most revered drummers in rock history. Hawkins was a dedicated fan, proclaiming the Rush drummer “had the hands of God” shortly after Peart's 2020 death. Taking a seat behind Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson was never going to be an easy task, so rather than give the responsibility to one man, it was given to three. Grohl joined the surviving Rush members for “2112: Overture” while Smith slid behind the kit for “Working Man.” The third and final song of the set was given to Tool’s Danny Carey, who proved more than up to the challenge while rocking through a rendition of “YYZ.”
Whatever name you want to give the combination of Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron, it was quite impressive. This assemblage of grunge royalty, made up of members of Nirvana and Soundgarden, had every fan in the crowd ready to dig out their old flannel shirt. But it was singer Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless who stole the show. Ranging from brooding to explosive, the singer attacked “The Day I Tried to Live” and “Black Hole Sun” with the kind of pitch-perfect ferocity that would have made Chris Cornell proud.
There’s No Stopping Queen
Return performers from the London show, Brian May and Roger Taylor were even better the second time around. The Queen legends delivered the same five songs they played in London, but there appeared to be a bolder edge this time. “We Will Rock You” – with Justin Hawkins on vocals – shook the arena with its strength, while May delivered a poignant moment before playing “Love of My Life,” noting that the song was being performed at the request of Alison Hawkins, Taylor’s widow. Still, the unquestioned highlight of the set was “Somebody to Love,” with Pink joining Queen on vocals in one of the night’s most electrifying performances.
If you’re noticing a theme, it’s that the women brought their A-game. Pink was one of the night’s MVPs, owning the stage every time she came out. Likewise, Miley Cyrus was a revelation performing alongside Def Leppard, powering the hard-rock vets through their breakthrough hit “Photograph.” Meanwhile, Jett, Kesha, Momsen, Morissette and Wilson provided some of the concert’s best moments. Even though some of these artists are more associated with pop than rock, they each showed they can fit in a lineup of any genre’s greatest acts.
As to be expected, emotions were running high among performers. Several had to take a moment to hold back tears as they honored their late friend. Grohl choked up on numerous occasions as he spoke about Hawkins, as did Jett, Smith and others. Each artist channeled their respective emotions into their performances. Perhaps the best example of this came from Rufus Taylor, son of Queen's Roger Taylor and drummer for the Darkness, who counted Hawkins as a friend and mentor. Rufus Taylor joined Foo Fighters at the show’s end for a performance of the band’s 2005 hit “Best of You.” Drumming as if he was a man possessed, Taylor delivered an incredible drum fill and pounded out beats with fury and precision. At the end of this captivating moment, the drummer momentarily collapsed forward in his chair, a mix of emotion and exhaustion seemingly causing him to pause. After a breath to compose himself, Taylor wiped away some tears, refocused and closed out the song to rapturous applause.
The London concert closed with Grohl performing solo, delivering a heart-wrenching version of Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.” In Los Angeles, the song once again closed the show, but it was a much different version. After six hours of music, and with the clock set to strike 1 a.m., Grohl and his Foo bandmates tore through an energetic rendition of the 1997 song, cranking things up to 11 one last time. The performance looked cathartic for the group, a final burst of energy to close out a long and emotional night. It was a powerful way to end things, with the thousands still in attendance giving the band a standing ovation as they were joined by the other performers for one final bow.