It might be strange to think of Foo Fighters as the last great American rock band, but somehow it's happened, and it's entirely heartening to see in the flesh.
Through some sort of ever-lasting battle of will – and sweat-strewn devotion to the cause – what started as Dave Grohl's efforts to scamper out of the shadow of Nirvana has mutated into a stadium-filling proposition of entirely admirable merit, a band happy to rely on analogue equipment and layers and layers of blazing guitar riffery as the genre that they're now kings of has found itself over the past few years bent entirely out of shape by newcomers as reliant on programming software and synth wizardry as they will ever be on any four- or six-stringed instruments.
It's not because of a refusal to adapt. As Foo Fighters open with the crushing and precise opening brace of numbers from new album Wasting Light (Bridges Burning and Rope since you ask), it's clear that the mainly black-clad band have merely rediscovered what they do best, and embraced it while still looking ahead, placing faith in that oft-mocked 'power of rock' as something that shall endure despite whatever trends may temporarily try to get in the way "Man, we don't use computers, we don't do fancy s***," he says at one point, admitting to their reliance on guitars as though it might be a surprise to those witnessing the quintet for the first time. It's not something that really needs to be fretted over.
White Limo is an especially raging euphoric tantrum of a new song, Grohl screaming his voice to bloody ribbons to obvious delight from the recipients of choice, that numer then segueing into a roaring (and also recent new concoction) Arlandria, confidence in their new material obviously at a deserved high. The set delivered with both wide-eyed and eye-bulging sincerity, this is one of the few bands that could say "we mean it, man" without it sounding like a sneering insult.
There's a bit of Orwellian revisionist history as Grohl dedicates Breakout to all the 'old' Foo Fighters fans, making anyone who loved them before their third album feel about as relevant as the art of calligraphy. But then, being about for 16 years there's a fair amount to choose from, a lot of history to navigate; a sense of legacy already making it feel like a family affair before a beyond-cute toddler – a younger member of the settled Foos brood you'd guess – is caught by the video screens air-drumming during Cold Day in the Sun (on which drummer Taylor Hawkins takes on lead vocals).
They don't have enough time to play all their songs (though that doesn't stop an extended mid-section in an otherwise paint-shredding Stacked Actors), so what they do play all seems specially selected for maximum impact. Early single Monkey Wrench is wringed out for as much impact as possible, the (also extended) mid-section notable for the enterprising T crowd somehow squeezing in the now-traditional Scottish chant of "Here we f***ing go" chant in despite the ditty's nippy tempo.
Best of You brings not one but two additional, unheralded choruses from the crowd. All My Life's syncopated guitar chugs are quietened enough to let its initial vocal melodies be fed directly from the crowd without any real encouragement. A Grohl solo rendition of Times Like These ended with the rest of the band showing up for an awesome helter-skelter finale. (Had the rest of them been in kilts before? Not that I can recall...) Hell, let it be said: Nirvana might have been the wake-up call for rock, but Foo Fighters were the band to take a newly envigorated genre to its peaks. They may not have been as initially electrifying, but there's a substance that has cemented them and then emboldened them over the past decade and a half.
The best is saved for last: vowing to go on until they're cut off (without the hokey time-sapping panto routine of encores), they launch into first ever single This is a Call – all breakneck vim and vigour – and then finally the utterly brilliant Everlong, not curtailed into an acoustic singalong but instead played in its full glory. Dave Grohl stays onstage to witness the fireworks that herald the end of the festival – no doubt contemplating his band's pivotal place within it – and, as with the rest of us, he recognises a moment in time that will resonate far beyond the night itself. With no fuss but yet a great deal of joy, T in the Park 2011 is done. Just try and top that.