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Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players Tear It Up at Sundance

Hours after his “Sound City” documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Dave Grohl took 800 fans on a three-hour musical odyssey at Park City Live that emphasized his personal connection to the Van Nuys, Calif., recording studio his film chronicles.


Taking the stage at 9:35 p.m. Friday (Jan. 18) under the name of Sound City Players, Grohl used the Foo Fighters in various configurations and created a few supergroups to explore the music of Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Queens of the Stone Age, Fear and Rick Springfield, introducing music recorded for the film as they went along. A Herculean feat — Grohl never left the stage — that resulted in an expertly executed night.


With his introduction of each artist, all of whom recorded significant works at the studio, Grohl made evident his personal connection to the music. Fear was the band he heard in Chicago when he was 12 that made him want to be a musician; Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” was the soundtrack to his drunken summer as a 16 year old in Delaware; Rage Against the Machine was the debut album that sounded like absolutely nothing he had ever heard before. After they hit the final chords of “Jessie’s Girl” while backing Rick Springfield, an overjoyed Grohl leaned into his microphone, waved his right arm and said “Bucket list. Check.”


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The supergroup concept employed in the first half of the show worked extraordinarily well, as each band sounded as if they had been in rehearsals for a month. The first featured Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) on guitar and vocals, Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and Grohl on bass; Slipknot’s Corey Taylor fronted the second one with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Grohl moving between guitar and drums. Queens of the Stone Age’s Alain Johannes, the first guest of the night, was in and out of both bands. “Ain’t That a Shame,” the Fats Domino hit that Cheap Trick covered in 1979, sounded ferocious.


John Fogerty — he wore a trademark flannel, Grohl did not — romped through the swampier hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Born on the Bayou” and “Keep on Chooglin'” among them, and the Foo Fighters sound like double-tracked version of CCR. The Foos brought a power pop edge to Springfield that gave his music a texture at a midpoint between the Ramones and the Police, a sound that shapes their new recording, “The Man That Never Was.”


And after accommodating hardcore punk, power pop, hard rock and other styles, they perfectly emulated the softer side of Fleetwood Mac as Stevie Nicks led the band through “Dreams” and “Gold Dust Woman.” Her set opened with “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” allowing the Foos to take on the role of Heartbreakers, and included “Landslide,” which Nicks sang with Grohl on 12-string guitar, an accordionist and violinist. “Landslide,” along with “Jessie’s Girl” and Fogerty’s “Proud Mary,” found crowd, ranging in age from early 20s to 60, boisterously singing every word.


Much as the night was a tribute to music recorded between 1973 and the end of the 20th century, new music recorded at Grohl’s studio — where the Sound City Neve console is housed — made it into the mix as well. Nicks premiered “You Can’t Fix This,” written, she said, after her godson died from alcohol poisoning after a fraternity hazing. Taylor-Nielsen’s “From Can to Can’t” opened as a Zeppelin-esque dirge and exploded into a grinding rock epic — think “Dazed and Confused” mashed with the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Lee Ving’s “Your Wife is Calling” was as hard, fast and loud as the Fear songs they performed.


The Sound City Players have one other gig booked, a Jan. 31 show at the Hollywood Palladium. It’s the same night as the theatrical premiere of “Sound City,” which will play for a week in eight cities an have one-night showings around the country. It will be available digitally on Feb. 1.


RCA will release the soundtrack, “Sound City – Real to Reel,” on March 15. The 11 tracks were all recorded at Grohl’s studio with the Sound City board and features new work from Paul McCartney and Trent Reznor in addition to the musicians in the Sound City Players.