Throughout the evening Grohl referenced how the Foos still look forward to rocking, though what they were doing up there was just that. This was no funeral dirge a la Nirvana’s classic “MTV Unplugged” performance; it was loud, loud, loud. With the normal Foo Fighter quartet augmented by Smear, violinist/vocalist Petra Hayden, percussionist Drew Hester, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, Grohl was able to keep his stadium-rock jones appeased while reading pretty much straight out of the bands’ albums.
As entertainment, the spectacle was an unqualified success. Grohl is a magnetic showman with a rapier’s wit, able to pull off his aw-shucks pranksterisms without ever coming across like he believes the band are as big as they are. In a rare slip, Grohl spoke of how much he enjoys these small performances because it gives him a chance to tell stories behind songs — it was the first such story and it was before the next-to-last song. But otherwise he brought Hester out to cowbell solo, let drummer Taylor Hawkins and Hayden take the vocal reins on “Cold Day In The Sun” and “Floaty” respectively, and silenced one fan’s offcolor request with, “Dude, my mom’s here.”
Artistically, however, Foocoustic was a letdown. While some tracks from In Your Honor were able to rise out of its double-disc drudgery, particularly “Razor” and “On The Mend,” very few of the songs were deconstructed or reorganized to bring new light. With the exception of Hayden’s soaring rendition of “Floaty,” Grohl plowed through “Best Of You,” “Everlong,” and “My Hero” without a trace of nuance or reinterpretation, and all were lesser versions because of it. Radio staples like “Walking After You” and “Big Me” felt tossed off, and when there was an attempt at coloration, the layering of three guitars forced Hayden’s mandolin out of the mix, as on “Another Round.”
The only technical cover, Grohl’s Nirvana B-side “Marigold,” skirted the past, though the night’s enduring moment came in the intro to “Friend Of A Friend.” Written while sharing a dingy apartment with Kurt Cobain back in 1991, Grohl recalled the band’s first months with touching aplomb even taking knocks at his first failed solo career. The song itself was revealing only in seeming to have morphed into “Something In The Way,” but it proved Grohl did know how to handle a show of this nature. He just needed to do it more often.
– Steve Forstneger
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