HOLLYWOOD — At one point Tuesday during the first of the Foo Fighters’ three sold-out acoustic shows at the Pantages Theatre, Dave Grohl joked that he saw so many familiar faces in the crowd he might as well be playing in his backyard.
Funny enough, that’s kind of what it felt like for the audience too.
With the stripped-down set list and Grohl’s personable, often hilarious between-song banter, the concert had a surprising intimacy for a rock show, at a 3,000-seat venue nonetheless (see “Foo Fighters — And Friends — Announce Dates For Acoustic Tour” ).
“I like to keep the talking to a minimum at the rock shows, but here it’s fun,” Grohl told the crowd a few songs in. And he certainly maximized the fun, whether he was imitating Rivers Cuomo (during a story about the Weezer frontman asking if his band could cover the Foos’ “Big Me”) or persuading additional percussionist Drew Hester to do a triangle solo.
For the encore, Grohl told the long story — complete with several humorous tangents, like how Tacoma, Washington, smelled like “a pot of boiling broccoli and sh–” — of how he came to join Nirvana. Grohl was setting up “Friend of a Friend,” which he wrote in 1990 about Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic and released on last year’s In Your Honor, but when he finally went to start the song, his guitar wasn’t working. As he waited for a new one, Grohl quipped, “This is not unlike the awkward tension that I was living with when I wrote it.”
Speaking of Nirvana, while Nevermind clearly catapulted them to stardom, it was their “Unplugged” show and album that truly demonstrated the scope of the group’s talent. And the same could be said about the Foos’ first acoustic tour.
For the first time, Grohl’s surprisingly tender voice and intrepid lyrics are front and center for an entire two hours. Or, as he put it, “I’m not just screaming my balls off.”
And from the opening number Tuesday, the haunting “Razor,” Grohl had the audience glued to his words. Silent and sitting, it looked like a church crowd, complete with spontaneous standers moved to raise their hands in the air.
Grohl was unmistakably the star, but his backing band has never been so essential, especially the four additional players. Pat Smear, who played with Grohl in Nirvana and the original Foo Fighters, disappeared for years but looks the same and had an instant presence on stage. With his permanent smile and nonchalant plucking, he was far more fun to watch than perma-Foos Chris Shiflett (who stared at the floor most of the show).
Keyboardist Rami Jaffee of Wallflowers fame brought new life to a number of the older songs, especially “See You,” which was reinterpreted as a sort of Ben Folds Five jam.
Violinist Petra Haden, who has played with Beck and Green Day, brought a thickness to the songs (rather than standing out) and also sang a tune, “Floaty,” which Grohl explained she had done back on the Foo Fighters’ first tour, with her band That Dog.
Drummer Taylor Hawkins, augmented on percussion by Hester (who produced Hawkins’ Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders side project), also took the mic, singing In Your Honor’s “Cold Day in the Sun” after a long dialogue with Grohl about their loving (“not in that way, but in that way,” as he put it) relationship.
The set list mixed songs from In Your Honor’s acoustic side like “Over and Out,” “On the Mend” and “Miracle,” which Grohl dedicated to his daughter Violet, with “freaky versions of old sh–,” as he explained. That meant hits like “Times Like These,” “Best of You” and “Everlong” (done as a slow-building epic) as well as lesser-knowns like “Marigold” and “Skin and Bones,” which he called a “C-Side.”
The Foos’ acoustic tour continues Wednesday at the Pantages and will now stretch into October with a string of dates with Bob Dylan.
Foo Fighters set list on Tuesday:
- “Over and Out”
- “On the Mend”
- “Walking After You”
- “My Hero”
- “Next Year”
- “Another Round”
- “See You”
- “Big Me”
- “Cold Day in the Sun”
- “Skin and Bones”
- “February Stars”
- “Times Like These”
- “Friend of a Friend”
- “Best of You”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.