Foo Fighters celebrated their 10th anniversary in grand fashion in 2005, releasing the double album “In Your Honor” then embarking on a year-plus tour that took them everywhere from arenas to theaters. The duality of the trek reflected the central conceit behind “In Your Honor”: The record was divided in two, offering one disc of high-octane rock ‘n’ roll and another collection of reflective acoustic-anchored material.
Fittingly, Foo Fighters decided to preserve these shows by filming and releasing two complementary home videos: the thunderous “Hyde Park,” which captures their headlining spot from their personally curated day-long festival on June 17, 2006, and “Skin and Bones,” a feature-length movie culled from a three-night stint at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.
“Hyde Park” and “Skin and Bones” underscore how “In Your Honor” was a musical flex for Foo Fighters, who by the middle of the 2000s were clearly the last band standing from the 1990s alternative rock explosion, and the one who retained commercial and artistic might. By the time “In Your Honor” appeared in the summer of 2005, Foos leader Dave Grohl was in the middle of something of a creative renaissance, channeling his heavier songs to his metal side project Probot (it released an eponymous album in 2004) and moonlighting as a drummer in both Tenacious D and Queens of the Stone Age.
Grohl’s extracurricular activities seeped into the Foo Fighters’ mini-festival at Hyde Park.
All these busman holidays highlighted Grohl’s hard rock side, which maybe made the acoustic half of “In Your Honor” inevitable: the softer sounds balanced the aggression he let out elsewhere in the early 2000s. Grohl’s extracurricular activities seeped into the Foo Fighters’ mini-festival at Hyde Park. The supporting lineup featured Queens of the Stone Age and Motorhead, whose leader, Lemmy Kilmister, sang on the Probot album. Lemmy saunters onto the Foos stage to sing “Shake Your Blood,” a song that appears about halfway through “Hyde Park.” By this point, it’s clear that the band tailored its set to be big, loud and relentless, with songs designed to keep a crowd of tens of thousands energized and engaged.
Grohl alludes to the size of the crowd early in the Foos performance, boasting “Fucking Hyde Park, fucking 85,000 people, fucking sold out,” in a profane tirade that’s part braggadocio, part irony. Whenever the rocker addresses the audience, it seems his tongue is grazing his cheek. When he asks the audience, “Would you like to sing this song with your friend Dave?” his cadence mimics that of Jack Black, the leader of Tenacious D. But the Foos play with such ferocity there’s no question of their commitment to their music.
They leave space for some fun, too. Toward the end of their performance, Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor join the band onstage, leaving Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins free to indulge in his fantasies of being Freddie Mercury during a wild jam on “Tie Your Mother Down.”
Fun isn’t necessarily in short supply on “Skin and Bones” — Grohl goes into overdrive, teasing audience members and playing to a hometown crowd — but good times aren’t the point of this feature-length video. The difference between “Live in London” and “Skin and Bones” is immediately apparent: The former is a concert presented without gimmicks or frills, the latter is a full-blown production. “Skin and Bones” opens with a camera trailing Grohl as he wanders around backstage, strumming a guitar, stopping at the “Baby Room” and then ribbing a guest taking advantage of the buffet. The message is clear: This is a family affair, a show for a close, intimate circle.
Foo Fighters expanded their own circle for this show, bringing guitarist Pat Smear back into the fold while adding violinist Petra Haden and keyboardist Rami Jaffee. The extra musicians allowed the band to try a variety of colors and textures that simply wouldn’t have translated in Hyde Park’s enormity. These new hues are as vivid on older tunes like “My Hero” and “Big Me” as they are on the “In Your Honor” material, of which there is plenty — eight of the 10 songs from the acoustic half of the album, plus the record’s hit “Best of You.”
The preponderance of “In Your Honor” songs ties “Skin and Bones” to the middle of the 2000s but, in retrospect, it feels like the opening of a second chapter for Foo Fighters. Smear and Jaffee would eventually become permanent fixtures in the band, which went on to take advantage of what it could do with a fuller lineup. Despite the experiments and interludes that would follow in the next two decades, Foo Fighters never allowed themselves the luxury of taking a deep, relaxed breath as they do on “Skin and Bones,” which is why it’s such a valuable addition to their body of work. Where “Hyde Park” offers a vivid document of the Foo Fighters muscle, “Skin and Bones” reveals the heart and soul that lies underneath the roar.