10 Years Ago: Foo Fighters Go Acoustic for Their Live Album ‘Skin and Bones’
It’s more than a little surprising that a band known for stadium-shaking rock songs would choose to release a recording of acoustic performances as its first live album. But that’s what Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters did when they put out Skin and Bones on Nov. 7, 2006.
The album’s 15 tracks were recorded over the course of three concerts that the Foos had played in August of that year at Los Angeles’s Pantages Theater while in the midst of an acoustic tour. For these gigs, the core band (Grohl, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Chris Shiflett) were augmented by another four musicians. Pat Smear, who had played with Grohl in both Nirvana and Foo Fighters, added additional acoustic guitar. Violin/mandolin player Petra Haden and Wallflowers keyboard man Rami Jaffee joined after contributing to the band’s previous studio album, In Your Honor. Drew Hester added extra percussion.
“It seems like I’ve joined a new band because it’s very different to anything we’ve ever done,” Grohl said at the time. “It’s like our own little mini orchestra. The few times that I’ve played acoustic by myself it’s been really moving and we’re trying to capture those moments throughout the set.”
The setlist drew heavily from the acoustic disc of 2005’s In Your Honor (opener “Razor” and the Hawkins-led “Cold Day in the Sun”), but also included gentle tunes from throughout the Foos’ then-11-year career. Hushed The Colour and the Shape standout “Walking After You” made an appearance, as did “Next Year,” from There is Nothing Left to Lose, injected with an accordion accompaniment. Hits like “My Hero,” “Times Like These” and “Big Me” (sung in duet with Haden) were given stripped-down arrangements.
Watch Foo Fighters Play "My Hero"
"I like to keep the talking to a minimum at the rock shows, but here it’s fun," Grohl told the audience at the first Pantages concert, according to MTV. After the release of Skin and Bones, which closes with three songs played solely by the singer, he reflected, “I like the acoustic shows as I get the chance to explain the songs to the audience.”
The acoustic approach also encouraged Grohl to feature some lesser-known songs, including the album’s title track (originally the B-side to “DOA”) and “Friend of a Friend,” which Dave had written and recorded in 1990 about his new bandmates in Nirvana (and later reworked for In Your Honor).
That’s not the only Nirvana-related song on the live album. By including “Marigold” – Grohl’s first released song because of its appearance as the b-side to Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” – on Skin and Bones, the tune became the of the only song to be officially recorded by both Nirvana and Foo Fighters.
Perhaps the most notable tie to Nirvana came as a result of the acoustic approach to the live disc, which couldn’t help but dredge up memories of the grunge band’s legendary appearance on MTV Unplugged. Both that show and these recordings featured Grohl, as well as second guitarist Smear. The former Germs member, Smear, found it amusing that he was becoming known for playing acoustic rock.
“I think I’m probably definitely better playing the hard rock kind of stuff,” he told the National Post. “That’s so weird that there [are] a lot of people that only know me with an acoustic guitar. It’s so rare. When we did the Skin and Bones tour, I didn’t even own an acoustic guitar, I had to borrow one from my friend.”
A few weeks after the release of the album, Foo Fighters followed it up with a concert DVD that added six songs not featured on the live disc. Both were received warmly by fans (who pushed Skin and Bones to go gold in the U.S.), although the rock press appeared less impressed with Grohl’s stripped-down approach. Some critics praised new arrangements for certain songs, while others wrote that it exposed weaknesses in his voice and writing that were hidden by more bombastic renditions.
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