SXSW: Dave Grohl leads rousing Sound City performance
Coming off his must-read SXSW keynote address earlier that day (he didn’t even change his shirt!), Dave Grohl took to the stage at Stubb’s in Austin to lead his Sound City Players supergroup in an impassioned and largely hard-rocking showcase Thursday night.
The ever-charismatic Foo Fighters frontman declared that this was the group’s final performance together and pledged an “extra long and extra special” night. Sound City is less a band than a showcase for artists who were part of Grohl’s recent documentary (now streaming online) on the famed Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys, where famed artists recorded some of their best-known albums (Nirvana’s Nevermind, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush among them).
The Players were never meant to be a permanent thing, of course; they were put together to play a handful of show to support the venture and its soundtrack (Sound City: Reel to Reel), with Grohl serving as ringleader for the shows and heaping praise upon each of his rock idols (who then gamely return the favor — Masters of Reality’s Chris Goss called him a “national treasure”).
The Citi-sponsored three-hour-plus set featured Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield and others from the project taking turns at the lead microphone for roughly five songs each (no Paul McCartney, drat). Grohl repeatedly noted how fortunate the crowd to see all these artists together on one stage, and it was tough to argue.
The emotional high point came early, during Nicks’ set, which included “Stop Draggin My Heart Around,” “You Can’t Fix This,” “Dreams,” “Landslide” and “Gold Dust Woman.” If you were sitting around at home you would probably never think to yourself, “You know what would be awesome? Having Stevie Nicks sing Fleetwood Mac songs with the Foo Fighters as her backing band.” But it was.
“Stop Draggin” and “Gold Dust Woman” were amplified into hard arena jam-rock anthems (aided heavily by the Foos’ Taylor Hawkins on drums). Then the band mostly stripped down to Grohl and Nicks for an intimate take on “Landslide.” “To play this song with you…” Grohl started, by way of introduction, then didn’t finish the sentence and fans got the message that there were no words to describe what it meant to him, and Nicks pleased the locals by noting that she was so impressed with Austin she wanted to move there.
Still, there was some slack in the lineup; Fear’s Lee Ving played some hardcore rock that was grunge before grunge, but sent the bathroom line surging, and the audience seemed to be biding their time during the show’s first set with Queens of the Stone Age player Alain Johannes. When Rick Springfield took the stage, it felt like a departure from the rest of the lineup, but even the snobbish had a tough time resisting nodding along to “Jessie’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything For You.”
“Are you sure it’s in that key?” Grohl teasingly asked Springfield when the ’80s pop-rock idol played an opening riff. “You have great f–king ears,” Springfield replied, sounding impressed.”Oh, I’m just a drummer,” Grohl said, mock-demurely.
The session came to a close with Fogerty howling through several of his ’70s Creedence Clearwater Revival classics, including “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son.” The veteran Fogerty almost seemed to want to compete with Grohl as a virtuoso hard-rock guitarist as the two jammed feverishly.
“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Grohl declared, but the audience looked like they all felt pretty lucky too.
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