By Scott T. Sterling
Earlier this year, the Foo Fighters made history when they were the first rock band to perform at the Greek Acropolis in Athens.
They were joined on their journey to Greece with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, who was there with a PBS crew to capture the moment for the show Landmarks Live in Concert.
It’s a show that follows artists performing in iconic venues around the world, with Smith serving as the host.
For the Foo Fighters to make the band’s first-ever performance in Greece, Smith reveals that as expected, it took a lot of effort to pull off.
“There’s a level of red tape that goes with playing a 2500-year-old venue with a major rock band, when they’ve never had rock bands play there,” Smith shared during a recent phone conversation. “They were very gracious and it was a real fun, once in a lifetime kind of experience for everybody. It was truly magical.”
Watching the Foo Fighters episode, it’s apparent that everyone involved in the show is awed by the location, with the band members and Smith all looking around the venue with wide-eyed wonder as they arrive.
“A lot of it was that it’s quite historical. Many important things from western civilization happened in Athens and at the Acropolis,” Smith said regarding their reaction to the venue. “As much as you can talk about it, until you actually go there, it’s pretty wild to set foot on that stage. It can be kind of daunting.”
“Nobody ever playing there before was a big part of it, too,” he added. “The Foo Fighters had never played in Greece before. You can’t help but be stunned when you’re there. Dave (Grohl) even says onstage that they’ve done some crazy things, but they’d never done anything like that.”
The setting makes for a truly epic show, with the steep architecture of the Acropolis creating a literal wall of fans in front of the band, which Grohl remarks on from the stage. The extraordinary nature of the concert is palpable through the screen.
“That’s the idea of the whole show, to create something special,” Smith explained about Landmarks Live in Concert. “Like with Alicia Keys, she grew up in Harlem, so we had her play the Apollo, which she’d been to as a kid. Andrea Boceli is another one. He’s from Tuscany, Italy, and he played this venue Palazzo Vecchio, which is a very iconic place where all of these great artists like Michelangelo and da Vinci and other philosophers of that era would meet. That was a big deal for him. You throw all of those elements together and it makes for something special for everyone involved, including the viewer.”
The show also incorporates local flavor, with the Foo Fighters episode finding Smith wandering through a local flea market. At one point, he spies a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt for sale in a booth, nestled between shirts touting the Ramones and Motorhead.
“It’s nice to be in that company,” Smith laughed. “That wasn’t planted or anything. We just played Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, and there were literally blocks-long tents of merchandise, and on the way to the gig I wanted to stop and put up some of the Chili Peppers’ shirts they had for sale. Some of it’s really good. They have every imaginable version you can think of to put our faces or name on. They’re pretty creative with it. It’s always kind of flattering to see that and be part of that rock history thing.”
Smith also shared that the show is working on a way to incorporate the Red Hot Chili Peppers into their own episode of Landmarks Live in Concert. When asked where his personal ideal location would be for the band’s iconic locale, Smith immediately thought of his hometown.
“That would the backyard of my house in Detroit, Michigan,” he said. “My mom would love that. She could bring all of her friends, we’d have some Kool-Aid and Hamburger Helper and it would be a great time.
“We’re looking to make it happen and get the Peppers to play somewhere for the show,” Smith revealed on a more serious note. “We’re trying to find the right place. I can’t tell you right now, but we’re working on a spot that the band has always wanted to go to that hasn’t been available, so through the love of PBS we’re hoping to finally make it happen.”
The Foo Fighters’ episode of Landmarks Live in Concert debuts on PBS this Friday (Nov. 10) at 10pm local time. Check local listings for more details. Watch a trailer for the show below, as well as an outtake of Smith talking to the Foo Fighters about their shared history.