By James Hibberd
Updated March 16, 2011 at 02:15 PM EDT
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

“What we like to do in these kind of situations is play the new record,” said Dave Grohl. “Would you like to hear the new record?”

The South by Southwest crowd, which had mobbed Stubb’s in Austin for last night’s “secret” show, responded in a “yes-we-do-but-we-also-want-to-hear-your-hits” kind-of way and the Foo Fighters proceeded to launch into the first track, “Bridge Burning,” from their upcoming album Wasted Light (out April 12).

The audience was doubtless still wondering if Grohl meant he was going to play the entire album, or just some of it. The answer quickly became apparent: Grohl & Co. pounded through, one track right after another, without taking a breath in between songs. They jammed out 11 tracks, and I can tell you this: The new album sounds like classic Foo. It’s relentless, without a single detour — no acoustic guitar, no piano, no excessive thrashing. You can imagine the songs coming from a lot of truck windows at stop lights. Assuming they played the songs in order of their released track list, No. 5, “Arlandria,” was a particular crowd pleaser that had industry types in the audience giving each other the approving, “Yup, that one works” nod.

After blasting the final note, Grohl declared: “And that’s the new record!” and the crowd went nuts, both for the songs and the bravado of the performance. From the moment he took the stage, there was something reassuringly familiar about Grohl. For a rock star, he’s weirdly ageless and always seems to look the same, complete with T-shirt, wristband and long brown sheepdog hair that makes you want to cut it so he can see better. It’s a weirdly likable quality — he’s arena rock’s Constant.

“This wasn’t supposed to be our show,” Grohl added. “We hijacked somebody else’s gig. So we don’t have a lot of time. So I’m not gonna tell funny stories and joke around like I usually do. I’m just gonna say, ‘Hi, how are you? Here’s the new record, and here’s some massive hits.'”

Foo then launched into a mini-greatest hits set, including “One by One,” “Monkey Wrench,” “Times Like These,” “Learn to Fly” and, yes, “Everlong” (the real version, not the wimpy acoustic one that some prefer for some reason).