Dave Grohl made a promise when he took the stage with his Sound City Players last night in Austin for a performance that doubled as their SXSW debut and, he said, their last-ever show. “This is gonna be a long fuckin’ night,” the singer, guitarist, drummer and now documentarian announced at Stubb’s.
True to his word, Grohl led the Sound City Players through a three hour and 20 minute concert comprising nearly 40 songs, featuring Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield and more, backed by a house band made up mostly of Foo Fighters. All the acts have recorded at the beloved Sound City studios in Los Angeles, which was the subject of Grohl’s recent documentary by the same name and the inspiration for the accompanying soundtrack album, Sound City – Real to Reel.
Afternoon rumors that Paul McCartney would make an appearance proved unfounded, but it’s hard to imagine where they would have slotted him in. The show, presented by Citi, required seven different set lists as guests rotated through and the songs veered from heavy to poppy and back again.
Queens of the Stone Age collaborator Alain Johannes was the first to join the Sound City Players onstage, singing and playing thunderous guitar on a handful of songs, including “Hanging Tree,” which he co-wrote for QOTSA, and “Reach Out” by his former band Eleven.
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Nicks was next, and she surrounded a somber new song, “You Can’t Fix This,” with more familiar fare from her own catalog and Fleetwood Mac’s, including a version of “Landslide” with Grohl accompanying her on a 12-string acoustic guitar.
After Nicks finished with “Gold Dust Woman,” given added heft by the Foo Fighters, she yielded to Chris Goss from Masters of Reality. Rage Against the Machine (and now Black Sabbath) drummer Brad Wilk laid down a speedy train rhythm that pushed through squalls of guitar on “She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On),” while “Time Slowing Down” was a mid-tempo brooder.
Fear leader Lee Ving joined Grohl and company for a quick tour of old-school hardcore, barking out lyrics in a voice with the gnarled bite of an old-growth thorn tree. “It may be short, but you still get the same number of notes because we play ’em fast,” Ving said after the 60-second blast “Gimme Some Action.”
Following Ving with Springfield was an incongruous choice, as Grohl acknowledged, but the singer launched into a string of catchy hits, including “I’ve Done Everything for You” and, of course, “Jessie’s Girl,” that served as a strong reminder of his pop bona fides.
That’s about when things started getting loose. Grohl switched to drums as former Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear joined him, Slipknot singer Corey Taylor and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen for a mini-set that slid quickly into sing-along, pump-your-fist versions of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” (with Taylor Hawkins trading off with Taylor on vocals) and “Surrender.”
Finally, Fogerty came out and shut things down with a quick spin through some Creedence Clearwater Revival songs and his own “Centerfield.” Grohl looked positively delighted when Fogerty played the vibrato guitar lick that opens “Born on a Bayou,” and the band rolled easily through “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary” before ending the show with a high-octane version of “Fortunate Son.”