Dave Grohl, Unplugged but Hardly Quiet

Thursday, August 17, 2006

When one of the world's biggest rock bands embarks on an acoustic tour, as Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters did Tuesday night at a sold-out Constitution Hall, it can safely be interpreted as a pretty self-indulgent move. But showing off his softer side wasn't the main motivation for this latest venture. Grohl just wanted to gab, and the relaxed, sit-down setting provided the perfect opportunity. "I'm a loudmouth," the Springfield native said early on, and he proceeded to share extended, entertaining tales about his recent Whac-A-Mole exploits at Rehoboth Beach, touring with family in tow and early encounters with his former band mates in Nirvana.

In between anecdotes, Grohl led his expanded group -- doubled in size to eight members -- through a two-hour set that was quieter than a typical Foos show, but not by much. With a pianist-accordion player, an additional guitarist (original member Pat Smear), a violinist and a second percussionist on hand, the group had a much more expansive sound. "Marigold," a sweet and spare Grohl-penned Nirvana B-side, came off sounding like a catchy Tom Petty dirge in its tastefully beefed-up version. "Another Round," one of many songs featured from the acoustic half of the group's recent double disc, "In Your Honor," also benefited from the added instrumentation.

The added dramatic flourishes on "My Hero" made the already schmaltzy, made-for-a-movie-trailer song even more painfully overwrought. And letting violinist Petra Haden handle vocals on "Floaty" was a kind gesture, but it ended up sounding like Mazzy Starr gone New Age.

Grohl made sure to finish on a high note, coming out solo for the encore and delivering a refreshingly simple and gorgeous version of "Friend of a Friend," which was preceded by a funny and, yes, touching story about first meeting Kurt Cobain.

-- David Malitz

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