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Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert: 10 drum highlights you need to see

Shane Hawkins
(Image credit: Twitter)

Wembley Stadium played host to one of the biggest standalone events in music on September 3 as Foo Fighters, joined by an all-star cast, paid tribute to late drummer Taylor Hawkins.

With a six-hour marathon show that featured members of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Metallica, AC/DC, The Police (and that really is just scratching the surface), plus many more, iconic musical moments were always on the cards, and lots of them. 

At the time of writing, the live-streamed performance isn’t available on MTV’s YouTube channel, but it is due to be available on-demand from the week starting 5 September. According to Foo Fighters’ website, Paramount+ users can watch on-demand now. For more details on how to watch the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, click here.

Proceeds from the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert are being donated to MusiCares and MusicSupport, charities specialising in providing mental health and addiction/recovery support for those in the music industry.

Here, we’re picking our highlights from the cast of drummers who turned out in force to support one of their own.


Shane Hawkins

Early in the show, comedy legend Dave Chappelle took to the stage to recount a story of meeting a kid backstage at a Foo Fighters gig. That kid was Taylor Hawkins’ son, Shane, and Chappelle’s touching speech went on to note that he’d visited New York’s Blue Note with Taylor and Shane to watch jazz pianist, Robert Glasper. The level of musicianship on display from Glasper and his band caused Hawkins Jr to remark to his father “You can’t play that shit, dad!”. Chappelle adds that Hawkins’ response was “Son, these are real musicians!”.

Shane Hawkins, along with his sisters Annabelle and Everleigh have gone through unimaginable loss at a young age this year, but that didn’t deter Hawkins’ son from taking to the drums with his dad’s band for the final full-band performance (and penultimate song) of the set. My Hero was recorded for Foo Fighters’ pre-Hawkins second album, The Color and The Shape, and famously features a double-drum part recorded by Dave Grohl. But here, it became Hawkins’ son’s fitting tribute to his father. 

When Dave Grohl says “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone hit the drums as hard as this person”, we know we’re in for some energy, and Shane delivered. Pummelling away at the drums with the busy sixteenth-note pattern, he had all the power and snap possessed by his dad, and propelled his way through the song like he wrote it himself. 

As the final drummer of the evening, it was the perfect ending to the full-band part of the set. Drumming is in Shane Hawkins’ DNA, and at just 16-years-old, it seems so too are stadium-level performances.


Dave Grohl

Put aside for one moment, the fact that Grohl’s relationship with Hawkins was closer to a brother than a bandmate, or the emotional weight on his shoulders - performing or not. Then consider that Grohl put in a heroic level of stamina across the entire six hours. 

From beginning the whole show behind the kit for a Liam Gallagher/Foo Fighters collaboration on Oasis tunes, Rock n Roll Star and Live Forever, to reforming his supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age’s Joshua Homme, to sitting in with The Pretenders and a reunited James Gang. 

Oh, and while he was there he filled Neil Peart’s shoes for a partial Rush ‘reunion’, all while performing guitar, vocal and bass duties throughout the night, and all before he rolled-out a greatest hits set of Foo Fighters material. 

Any of these performances would be standalone headlines under normal circumstances, but here they are deserving of an unbelievable level of credit. Grohl proved time and again why he is not only considered the Nicest Man In Rock, but also the most influential drummer of his generation.    


Omar Hakim

Taylor Hawkins wasn’t just a drummer who fell into the biggest gig on the planet, he was a student of the instrument: a drummer’s drummer. It should come as no surprise, then, that Hawkins was a fan of Omar’s work with Bowie, Sting, Weather Report, Dire Straits and many others. And while there were plenty of technicians on the bill, Omar Hakim - nicknamed The Groovesmith - is a true master.

His role in the Taylor Hawkins Tribute started with Bowie’s Let’s Dance (he recorded the drum track for the original) alongside the song’s producer, Chic legend Nile Rodgers. It continued by sitting in on Rush’s YYZ with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee where Hakim’s progressive/fusion abilities shone through, and if sitting in for the drummer that many consider to have been the best to ever do it wasn’t enough, 

Omar’s next job was backing up a Beatle for Paul McCartney’s performances of Oh! Darling (duetting with Chrissie Hynde). But despite all of this, our favourite Omar turn of the evening was on a Foo Fighters song. Taylor Hawkins went on record to name Aurora - Grohl’s dreamscape love letter to his time living in Seattle - as one of his favourites. For this version, The Groovesmith did himself and Hawkins proud.   


Josh Freese

If you own a record collection, you likely own songs with Josh Freese’s drumming on them. Freese caused jaws to plummet floorwards as he first stepped up to perform Van Halen’s On Fire alongside Eddie Van Halen’s son (and former Van Halen bassist) Wolfgang Van Halen. After Wolfgang’s uncanny interpretations of his father’s guitar histrionics, Freese blasted through Hot For Teacher with impeccable accuracy.

But he wasn’t done yet. Freese came back on for the Foo Fighters’ originals set, which opened with Times Like These. A clearly emotional Grohl performed the extended, subdued intro while choking back the tears (and at times pausing to allow them through). But by the time the band kicked-in proper, Freese gave us yet another reminder as to why he’s forged a path as rock’s go-to hired gun, absolutely nailing the song’s 7/4 main theme with precision and tase. 

Next up was live Foos favourite, All My Life with Freese turning in an entirely faithful version with his trademark, chameleonic ability to play exactly what is required. Close your eyes, and it could be Hawkins. Now’s not the time to start debating who could possibly replace Taylor Hawkins - or indeed if the band is even considering continuing - but if it’s ever even a possibility, our money would be on Freese delivering the goods.


Lars Ulrich

The unprompted (and often undeserved) bashing of the metal legend has become seemingly fair game over the years, but Lars silenced the critics by treating Wembley Stadium with the same comfort levels as his front room, combined with excitement of the fans as he arrived to play two AC/DC songs with Foo Fighters and Brian Johnson. 

After smashing his way through Back In Black while the crowd audibly erupted, Lars swapped out his busted snare drum and continued to steamroll his way through Let There Be Rock. There was no shortage of love from any of the performers on the line-up, but Lars gave one of the most enthusiastic displays of the night, appearing to be eager to pay the best tribute he possibly could to his late friend Taylor.

At one point, the camera switches to the back of the stage, allowing us to watch Johnson willing Lars to continue pummelling the life out of the kit while the always-enthusiastic Pat Smear looks on like he’s in the audience. Club-level energy from stadium veterans never felt so infectious.


Rufus Taylor

Hawkins’ relationship with Rufus Taylor goes back to the latter’s birth - it’s well known that Hawkins is godfather to the son of his drumming hero. Rufus has featured on Foo Fighters performances before, but here, The Darkness drummer excelled a number of times throughout the set. 

But perhaps his crowning performances came during the Foos originals, where he played These Days and the made-for-a-stadium Best of You. The latter was a stretched-out, almost gruelling live version complete with an extended showcase of Rufus on the drums, and he delivered with aplomb. 

There’s no getting away from the fact that Rufus’ appearance, frame, body language and playing style is eerily close to Taylor Hawkins, at some points he could easily be mistaken for the legend he was paying tribute to. Once again, the who, if and when of Foo Fighters’ future seems an inappropriate talking point, but Rufus Taylor has certainly got fans talking online about his potential.   


Nandi Bushell

As Grohl noted before introducing her, UK multi-instrumentalist Nandi Bushell cemented her place in the Foo Fighters universe by challenging Grohl to a drum off. While there’s novelty to this, there was no novelty to the performance Nandi put in for Foo Fighters’ Learn To Fly. 

It’s easy to forget the enormous scale when we’re watching on a screen, but this wasn’t The Stadium boozer in Wembley. Nor was it the still-massive Wembley Arena. This was Wembley. The Stadium. The spiritual home of the world’s biggest gigs, with the potential to bring seasoned pros to their knees -  and in this case, the physical venue too.

But when Nandi Bushell casually strode to the kit wearing a jacket with Hawkins’ portrait, you wouldn’t know it. Nandi smashed-out an excellent rendition of Learn To Fly, with its displaced snare backbeat and razor-sharp placement of the tambourine hits. She looked totally comfortable while also living out every young drummer’s dream of being asked to get up and play at a ginormous rock concert.

We’d say that Nandi Bushell is one to watch, but the reality is she’s already fulfilling career highlights, there’s clearly an exciting future in store. 

 


Roger Taylor

Without Queen, it’s debatable that we’d have had Taylor Hawkins - at least as we knew him. Not only was Roger Taylor a close friend of Hawkins, but Taylor was a Queen obsessive, clearly studying Freddie Mercury’s delivery as a frontman and applying it to his own stage presence when it came time for him to take the mic in front of big audiences. “When I was 10 years old, my older sister took me to see Queen in concert - the first concert I ever saw” and interview clip with Taylor said, “And I watched the fucking drummer, and I said ‘I want to fucking be him, I want to do that.”

what better way for Roger Taylor to make an entrance with guitarist Brian May than with his signature clap-along beat from We Will Rock You?  He was flanked by his son Rufus and Foo Fighters backing vocalist Barbara Gruska before leaving the kit to take the lead vocal on I’m In Love With my Car.

Foo Fighters/Queen increased the Taylor/Hawkins name count even further by borrowing Rufus’ frontman, Justin Hawkins to play Under Pressure, with Roger sounding like classic RT on the drums, while also chirping out some great backing vocals.

Arguably, though, it was Queen’s highlight performance of the evening - fronted by Eurovision runner-up, Sam Ryder - of Somebody To Love, a song which had become a Taylor Hawkins go-to Queen cover when he took to the mic during Foo Fighters shows that stole their section of the set. Queen and Wembley go hand-in-glove, and this collaboration proved that decades on from their own triumphs at the iconic venue, the music still delivers in its perfect setting.

 


Stewart Copeland

When Taylor Hawkins first joined Foo Fighters, he and Grohl were constantly answering questions comparing their styles - a routine answer became that Grohl took influence from John Bonham, while Taylor’s style was more along the lines of Stewart Copeland. Of course, we’d go on to learn that Taylor Hawkins’ list of idols reached far and wide, but Copeland remained a big influence as well as a good friend.

As Copeland took to the stage, Grohl asked, ‘Ready, Stew’ and Copeland responded by banging out quarter notes on his snare. For a second, we could be fooled into thinking we were getting Message In A Bottle, but Copeland and Foo Fighters took a swerve for the less obvious (but no less brilliant) Next To You. 

With the sugary-sweet power pop aperitif covered, the next song served up a main course of more complex Copeland. One of our favourite performances of the entire set, as the (perhaps unlikely) collaboration between Copeland and Supergrass frontman, Gaz Coombes (backed by Foo Fighters) unleashed a near-perfect version of The Police’s Everything Little She Does Is Magic. Copeland was on top form with his kit sounding fantastically ‘him’, as he weaved through the song’s reggae-rock combos, complete with some irresistible splashes. A special nod needs to go to Gaz Coombes for an impeccable vocal delivery, making this a real treat for those who miss seeing Copeland in a loud rock context. 


Travis Barker

The Blink-182 drummer joined Foo Fighters on stage after Dave Grohl introduced him by explaining how when Taylor first met Travis he was “a fucking garbage man”. Travis recounted the story around the time of Taylor’s death, detailing how the Foos drummer had regularly watched him play locally and offered him words of assurance that he’d one day have a successful career as a drummer.

Hawkins was right, and Travis opened his two-song contribution with The Pretender, chopping away at his snare as if he was attempting to bludgeon it to death. Our favourite of the two songs though, was Monkey Wrench, which played at album tempo saw Travis in his pop-punk comfort zone, powerfully rattling through the songs fills and pauses before bringing some of his trademark showmanship courtesy of a short solo complete with flailing arms and spinning sticks, all while making it seem effortless. 

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.