It takes a lot to impress a frequenter of the Los Angeles music scene, let alone five thousand of them at once. In a city where the crowds have seen it all and the stories have all been told, it was more than a little bit exhilarating to dig into what Dave Grohl and friends were cooking up at The Palladium in Hollywood on Thursday night, and downright jawdropping to witness a sea of Angelenos screaming like teenage girls at the who's-who of rock tearing up the stage.
The Foo Fighters frontman premiered his long-awaited Sound City documentary earlier in the evening, where attendees were also given a ticket to a live performance following the show. Once the film concluded and moviegoers herded across the street to The Palladium's ballroom floor, Grohl delivered a three-plus hour barrage of music with a revolving cast of collaborators who contributed to the Sound City film and its accompanying soundtrack, Sound City: Real to Reel.
With Eleven/Queens of The Stone Age multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes at center, the Foos served as the enigmatic songwriter's backing band to kick off the night, rocking through a cover of Queens of The Stone Age's "Hanging Tree":
Soon after, Chris Goss of Masters of Reality took the stage alongside Grohl, with Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk on drums, for a few MoR jams as well as the new collaborative track “Time Slowing Down,” which will see a release on the Sound City: Real To Reel album.
Each change in onstage personnel was accompanied by a drop-screen video clip, with outtakes from the film prefacing and contextualizing the performance that was about to unfold. Such was the case before Grohl climbed behind the drum kit to aid Black Rebel Motorcycle Club members Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes for loose renditions of “Red Eyes and Tears,” “Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll” and their Real to Reel track “Heaven and All”.
Next came Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, who led Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, Grohl and Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen for a set of covers by the latter's band. Was it a little too surreal to see the prime alpha rager belting out "Surrender" and egging the crowd on in a singalong? Yes, indeed it was. Hell, it was downright weird. But damned if it wasn't one hell of an unforgettably, ridiculously awesome moment.
Spastic geriatric Lee Ving was the next guest to take the stage, with a little bit of Grandpa punk blasting a renewed energy into the crowd, who were beginning to feel a bit fatigued after having watched a film for 90 minutes and thrown themselves directly into a musical marathon. But what really set the room ablaze was hometown heartthrob Rick Springfield, who led the Foo Fighters through a set of old classics before driving the crowd bonkers with “just three fucking chords,” as Grohl mused upon seeing the general reaction to that unmistakable intro to Rick's signature hit "Jessie's Girl".
The longest performance of the evening was provided by John Fogerty, who led the Foo Fighters through a flurry of Creedence Clearwater Revival gems including “Travelin Band,” “Born On The Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and of course “Fortunate Son,” which found Grohl trading verses with the rock hero. Foo Fighters are a tricked-out muscle car of a backing band, with Chris Shiflett effortlessly peeling off blistering solos and Taylor Hawkins' metronomic explosiveness working in perfect lockstep with his big-brotherish frontman Grohl, who was a gnashing blur of teeth and hair as he played rhythm guitar.
The night ended with a stirring set from living legend Stevie Nicks, who was joined by Grohl for a heartwrenching take on "Landslide" as well as an extended jam of "Gold Dust Woman" and a vocal volley on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around".
The Real to Reel track "You Can't Fix This" was a surprisingly consistent composition stylistically for Nicks, and its young vitality infected the singer's presence onstage.
Amazingly, Dave Grohl didn't appear to leave the stage the entire night. As he led an enormous and varied cast of superstars and legends through a jukebox-shaming collection of fan favorites that the crowd ecstatically devoured, the biggest grins in the house were always coming from the man who made it all happen. Calling it his life's greatest work, Grohl has taken a beautiful tribute to a cornerstone of rock history and given it blood and muscle with a pure drive of greatness. Though its doors are closed and the mythical Neve board is secure in its new home in Grohl's studio, the spirit of Sound City and the reverence for its legacy was thick in the air, like a post-coital haze where you can hardly believe you're living in such a transcendently fantastic reality.