UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Finally a band played almost acoustic at KROQ-FM’s annual Almost Acoustic Christmas festival.
Foo Fighters, headlining both Saturday and Sunday of the influential rock radio station’s holiday extravaganza, opened their shows with stripped-down sets reminiscent of the fest’s early years, when artists like Tony Bennett would balance out bands like Rage Against the Machine (which happened in 1993, to be exact).
The Foos capitalized on the “Almost” part of the fest’s name — as well as the Gibson Amphitheatre’s revolving stage — by cleverly segueing into a full rock show. As singer Dave Grohl strummed “Everlong” solo from just off the circle stage behind him, it turned mid-song to reveal the Foos’ core lineup tearing into the hit through their massive amplifier stacks (versus the loungey arrangement of their acoustic set). The band carried out an acoustic tour this summer (see “Dave Grohl Gets Personal At Foo Fighters Acoustic Show In Hollywood” ).
On Sunday night, the Foos’ move proved to be a fitting finish to a weekend in which bands continually went above and beyond typical rock shows.
Beck, as he has done the second half of this year, married his set to a marionettes show at the back of the stage. 30 Seconds to Mars raced through the aisles dressed in Santa Claus costumes. Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse also came as Santas and the rest of Gnarls Barkley dressed as elves (the singer introduced himself as “Dirty Santa and the Ho Ho Hos”). Panic! at the Disco featured elaborate costumes and dancers, going for a “Marie Antoinette” meets the Ringling Bros. vibe. She Wants Revenge covered Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter.” And the Killers played their new Christmas song, “A Great Big Sled.”
“We’re the only band without a Christmas gimmick,” Evanescence singer Amy Lee joked backstage as the Gnarls girls rushed to the stage behind her. “I don’t care though. That’s metal.”
Saturday’s show began with the frenzied thrash of Saosin and led into the slotted-way-too-early Wolfmother, who served up crowd favorites like “Dimension,” “The Joker & the Thief” and “Woman.” Guitarist and lead singer Andrew Stockdale’s cocksure swagger more than rocked the semi-packed auditorium for a healthy 30 minutes.
An impressive one-arm drum assault from (+44) drummer Travis Barker followed, paving the way for the more punk-like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and AFI, all battling for crowd favorite.
That love didn’t seem to do much though for FOB bassist Pete Wentz, who admitted, “We feel like losers.” But he and the band carried on, energetically delivering its new single “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” to the approving audience.
When Fall Out Boy’s set ended and the Lazy Susan stage did its 360, it signaled the start of the Black Parade. Serving as grand marshal, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way channeled Freddie Mercury and Billy Corgan — the latter of whom was spotted in the VIP room backstage — in a riveting, cinematic performance that teased the audience with a sample of what might be among the most anticipated tours of 2007.
MCR’s Black Parade gave way to a dressed-in-all-white AFI. Frontman Davey Havok preened and posed through the band’s anthem-laden set, as the crowd went line for line with him on “Miss Murder” and “Love Like Winter.”
The most surprising set — surprising in good way — on Saturday may have been Incubus. Not seen or heard from in some time, a mature and polished-sounding Incubus rocked the crowd with fan favorites “Warning,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Nice to Know You,” as well as new material from their recent LP Light Grenades, which recently topped the Billboard albums chart (see “Jay-Z Takes A Week-Two Fall; Incubus’ Grenades Blasts To #1″ ).
Sunday’s show opened with She Wants Revenge, who turned their breakthrough hit “Tear You Apart” into a massive sing-along. Snow Patrol followed with a radio-festival-friendly run-through of their hits, from “Spitting Games” to “Chasing Cars.”
Gnarls Barkley had fewer singles to work with but enough charisma to last all night in singer Cee-Lo, whose between-song banter and perma-smile certainly brought good tidings of joy. “This is the very reason I am rich and famous today,” Cee-Lo said as he introduced the Grammy-nominated “Crazy.”
Meg White was in attendance for her “brother” Jack’s hard-rocking show with the Raconteurs. She got to talk drums backstage with Grohl, who mingled around the hallways also chatting with Beck and the Killers. (The latter’s dressing room doubled as a celeb-packed party with Lindsay Lohan, Jimmy Kimmel and Efren Ramirez in on the action.)
And as much as the Foos’ singer was the life of the party backstage, he was even more entertaining onstage, whether he was dedicating Prince’s racy “Darling Nikki” to all the ladies “for obvious reasons” or mocking the moshers.
“Do you guys not like chicks?” he asked. After all, this is an acoustic festival, right?
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.