Sturdiness Beneath the Bombast

Written By Steve Knopper

Everywhere But Home

“Everywhere But Home” features more than three hours of live performances captured on the Foo Fighters’ 2002-03 “One by One” world tour.

During a 2003 acoustic set on this collection of live performances, singer-guitarist Dave Grohl describes the then-9-year-old Foo Fighters more accurately than this review ever could: “All of our songs are FUUU SLSSSAAASS AARRGGH! Like that,” he says, before a gentle version of “For All the Cows.” It’s a telling admission. The Foos are heavy and metallic, Grohl packs wordless screams into every other song, the guitars lean on power chords and drummer Taylor Hawkins couldn’t be any more relentless. Yet at heart, like Grohl’s previous band Nirvana, the Foos tuck memorable melodies inside the noise that lend themselves to folk intimacy.

Originally released in late 2003, “Everywhere But Home” captures the band as it barnstorms the world, mostly after putting out the “One by One” album, beginning with a 15-song performance at Toronto’s Arrow Hall, then excerpting sets from Dublin and Slane, Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Washington, D.C.

The Foo Fighters began out of a cassette tape of songs Grohl wrote during his time in Nirvana and earlier, and this film captures them on the brink of graduating from unexpectedly packed clubs to arenas and stadiums. In Toronto, Grohl declares, with believable humility, “We didn’t expect there to be so many people, and it’s a nice surprise.”

Then 34, Grohl is the consistent focal point with a slight beard, plain T-shirt, jeans, sneakers and a single guitar; the band’s only frills are an unflagging, bouncy energy and a string of fast songs full of endless, huge drum rolls and guitars that sometimes recall Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (on a 12-minute-plus version of “Stacked Actors”) and other times seem birthed from the soft-to-loud rib of Nirvana (the opening “All My Life”).

Grohl and Hawkins are consistently athletic, and bassist Nate Mendel and guitarist Chris Shiflett, on opposite sides of the stage, bop constantly in place, a full-band endurance spectacle that thrills the moshing and crowd-surfing crowd. (Hawkins occasionally drums with a lit cigarette in his mouth — which, frankly, he deserves.)

Grohl suggests he’s holding court in his basement rec room with some pals enjoying a few too many drinks.

Foo Fighters have always been friendly and personal, inspiring long-held fan loyalty. Instead of spewing out the usual “Hello, Cleveland!” clichés, Grohl suggests he’s holding court in his basement rec room with some pals enjoying a few too many drinks. As the media-anointed amiable face of rock ‘n’ roll, Grohl bridges the history between today’s Yungbluds and Machine Gun Kellys and the good old days back in Seattle. But he’s full of underrated tools: “Monkey Wrench,” the nine-minute highlight of the Toronto set, is a pissed-off revenge anthem cleverly disguised as a sing-along headbanger; “See You” shows his touch as a lyricist, as he sings, “These steps I take don’t take me anywhere/I’m getting further from myself”; and beloved hits like “Everlong” (which the band performs multiple times throughout this collection) and “Times Like These” (recently played with maximum sentimentality and hopefulness for President Biden’s inauguration concert in Washington) have the kind of sturdiness that suggests they will endure long after the Foos have wound down.

For all but diehards, “Everywhere But Home” can be challenging to take in all at once, in part due to its 2 ½-hour length but also because the camerawork is peak MTV-era whirling whiplash, surging between Grohl’s face to Hawkins’ sweaty hair to Shiflett’s fingers to Mendel’s Chuck Taylors to mosh-pitters shooting devil horns. But consumed in shorter segments over repeat viewings, the video showcases performances like “My Hero” and “All My Life” that depict why this now-perennial rock band shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Steve Knopper is a Billboard editor at large, former Rolling Stone editor, author of “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age” and “MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson” and a contributor to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and many other publications. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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