Please sterilize all rock idols. We must not let them become mild-mannered fathers.
This July and August, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters have been solidifying the middle-aged contingent of their fan base with a super-sold-out fourteen-stop national tour that pulled into the Berkeley Community Theater July 13. Supporting a fifth album, In Your Honor, and a three-month-old daughter named Violet, the former Nirvana drummer took it easy Thursday evening with a never-before-seen eight-piece "afoostic" set. The dozen songs strummed softly over ninety minutes disturbed diehard Probot fans as much as they enraptured the ladies from Walnut Creek. More wholesome than yogurt and granola this writer hereby dubs this new Foo phase Grohl-nola.
"Ooooooooh! YYEEEEAAAH!" the Macho Man Randy Savage meatheads in back shouted at the beginning of the show. "Yeeeaaaaaaaw!"
They came to pay homage to the hardcore Grohl in Doc Martens who'd played 924 Gilman before joining Nirvana on a sterling reputation of Hardest, Loudest Drummer Around. Indeed, Grohl's gargantuan, booming drum strikes propelled Nirvana over the top. It was the difference between Bleach and Nevermind, and now, fifteen years later, a difference that was wholly MIA on the Berkeley High School campus.
"I wish I could stand up," said San Francisco resident and longtime fan T.R. Bearson. "Then I could walk out." He reminisced about seeing Foo with Weezer at the Oakland Coliseum. "They had the stage surrounded by security guards, and then halfway through the show the security guards all stripped into Chippendale dancers," he said, then shook his head. "I could take my parents to this."
Indeed, many people did take their parents, or girlfriends, or six-year-olds (Jesus God!) to the 8 p.m. show. Peals of female shrieking and "You're sexy!" bounced off the high ceilings as the stringbean Grohl belted out his latest semi-hit "Best of You." He closed with a stripped-down "Everlong," using just a whisper and a single guitar stroke per chord change. All the girls in the audience sang along: If everything could ever feel this real forever/If anything could ever be this good again.
"I was really satisfied with the show," said Walnut Creek resident Terra Dehnart. "I loved that duet he played." She was on a date with North Bay resident Cole Mathers, and although she couldn't name a single Foo Fighters song, she said she loved Grohl.
Mathers had bought the tickets. "I grew up listening to Nirvana, and Grohl's just really touched so many people's lives," he said.
In Your Honor continues to touch lives, even though critics feel a little violated. Pitchfork.com gave the clunky double-disc set an abysmal 5.4 out of 10. Half the record is rock, the other half acoustic, as if Grohl split his songwriting down the middle. And the best songs of his Berkeley show came from prior periods.
Guest violinist Petra Haden's version of "Floaty" from 1994's Foo Fighters had Grohl admitting her interpretation made his stuff look bad. Ever more embarrassing was the specter of Kurt Cobain and his massive yet lean songwriting talent. Nirvana Unplugged comparisons loomed over the show as Grohl discussed living in squalor with the prophet of Gen X. Then he played a simple three-chord Nirvana-era song he wrote in the early '90s. He's never been in love/but he knows what love is/When he sings/no one speaks, Grohl sang about Kurt. The raw moment reminded everyone of Cobain's skills and made us contemplate just what had been lost in the intervening years. It is not love for Grohl. He is as famous, happy, and fun as ever.
"This might be our favorite tour so far," he joked with the crowd. "I wake up with a voice and no hangover. Well, a little hangover. You know, a wine hangover."
Someone didn't get the memo that Grohl is now 37 and threw a joint onto the stage. "I don't even smoke weed anymore," he responded. "What the fuck is this? No one ever threw joints at me when I smoked weed. Now it's a fucking Cypress Hill concert?"
He handed the doobie to guest organist Rami Jaffee, who was puffing and playing by the next song. "No, seriously. Don't do drugs. Drugs are bad," Grohl said, half-seriously.
Three standing ovations later, Grohl's new middle-age base totally approved. But the Mohawked dudes with "Porno" silk-screened onto their T-shirts left with something strange sitting in their bellies: "Dave Grohl is old, and I'm getting older," they likely were thinking.
"That feeling of going out and playing your song quietly is weird. Very weird," Grohl told the crowd, recalling his very first acoustic set at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit. "Most of our songs don't work acoustically."
You bet your ass they don't.
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