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Foo Fighters, Black turn down volume but keep up intensity

Thanks to a harmonic convergence of new fatherhood, abused eardrums, and proximity to the Big 4-0, a certain generation of hard rock musicians is laying down its electric guitars and penning pretty ballads. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that both Dave Grohl and Frank Black are nurturing their inner troubadours. Either way, it makes for a lovely double bill.

During his opening set at the Wang Center on Tuesday, Black (who moonlights as frontman for the Pixies) plumbed his eclectic solo catalog and transformed choice band cuts -- ``Wave of Mutilation" and ``Cactus " -- into intense, stripped-down affairs. Despite the gentler decibels there's nothing comforting about Black's music, which these days veers toward American Gothic in sound and spirit. When Black hollers ``Hey!" we still bolt.

Grohl is neither a commanding singer nor a gifted songwriter but he's awfully nice, and clever, too: Foo Fighters invited a few friends along to stand in for the roaring guitars on the band's maiden acoustic voyage. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee, violinist/vocalist Petra Haden, former Nirvana and Foos guitarist Pat Smear, and percussionist Drew Hester helped turn the comely tracks from the quiet half of ``In Your Honor," Foo Fighters' double album, into a lush, earthy racket. The whole crew performed seated, sawing and plucking and strumming and shaking their way through songs that invariably swelled from spare and pensive to delicately roiling in the space of four or so minutes.

Grohl and company cherry-picked the most easily adaptable songs from the Foos' back catalog with mixed results. ``Times Like These" and ``Everlong" evoked, oddly enough, a grungy Eagles vibe, while the surprising interplay of jazzy piano, searing fiddle, and pummeling beats on ``My Hero" lifted the song above nuts-and-bolts introspection.

Grohl was, as ever, a charming host, whether offering an affectionate shout-out to Boston-based mover and shaker Mark Kates (Nirvana's A&R guy at Geffen Records), dedicating the beautiful new song ``Miracle" to his 4-month- old daughter, or remembering his former bandmate Kurt Cobain, who inspired ``Friend of a Friend" -- the most troubled and most gratifying song of the night.

Joan Anderman can be reached at

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