The legend of Hannukah is that oil that was supposed to last for one night actually lasted for eight. That’s nothing compared to the miracle pulled off by Dave Grohl and Greg Kurstin at the first-ever live edition of their Hannukah Sessions project, which took place Monday night (Dec. 5) at the tiny, 250-capacity Largo in Los Angeles. On the bill: a slew of headliner-sized names singing songs by Jewish artists.
The event was originally envisioned during the pandemic as a video series of cover songs recorded in Grammy-winning producer Kurstin’s home studio, with each of Hannukah’s eight nights repped by a cover from a well-known artist. This year’s edition — the third in the series, and in this case presented by director Judd Apatow, with profits going towards the Anti-Defamation League — was more of an all-star jam, with cross-generational (and cross-genre-ational) Jewish rockers presenting both their own songs and choice covers, held down with Grohl on drums, Kurstin on keys, and an occasional horn section abetting them throughout the night.
“We’ve gone for the unpredictable,” Grohl promised at the top of the night, and he wasn’t lying: the musical portion of the night started with Apatow showing off a gold tooth gifted to him by Grohl before mugging and singing his way through Blood Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel,” apparently inspired by a karaoke night in Hawaii with Grohl’s family.
But following Apatow, the night went from silly to stellar: the next guest was Pink, who proudly proclaimed, “My name’s Alicia. I’m a Jew,” before blasting through her own classic Bar Mitzvah hit “Get This Party Started” — seemingly for the first time in a while, breezily missing a couple of lyrics and using a crib sheet to get by, but living up to Grohl’s description of her as a “badass” with good-naturedness and the stellar, upper-level singing chops that have made her a superstar for a decade.
Grohl described he and Kurstin’s meet-up in an L.A. restaurant before bringing out the next guest, Inara George — Kurstin’s collaborator in the band the Bird and the Bee — for an audience-abetted version of 10cc’s yacht-rocky “The Things We Do For Love.”
Grohl’s teenage daughter Violet came next, wielding an acoustic guitar for Janis Ian’s wildly-appropriate “At Seventeen,” in honor of the recently-deceased Brooks Arthur, the song’s producer.
The hits — and hitmakers — kept coming. Longtime Grohl buddy Beck came up next, blasting his way through his own “E-Pro,” leading the audience through the iconic “na-na, na-na-na-na-na” chorus and going for ironic wheedile-deedilie tapping guitar-rocking solos despite having left his pick resting on the strings on the first fret. He was followed by the night’s biggest surprise: Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O who enthusiastically blasted her way through her band’s “Heads Will Roll.” The audience immediately got on its feet to dance, uncommon for this theater which is known for its no-talking acoustic performances rather than ear-blasting fist-pumping.
Despite its reputation, Grohl proclaimed “Largo is a rock club,” just after Beck’s performance — and Jack Black proved it, nailing the high notes (and the low notes) in Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” ostensibly the night’s penultimate song.
Grohl took the lead for an all-hands-on-deck run-through of “We Love L.A.” to close out the eight-crazy-nights portion — but, there was one more unexpected twist: an encore of David Lee Roth’s version of “Just A Gigolo,” with a bemused Beck holding a lyric sheet and becoming a dance partner for Jack Black while his Tenacious D bandmate Kyle Gass added occasional backup vocals.
Though Grohl never said it outright, it certainly seemed as if the show was being recorded to be released as this year’s Hannukah Sessions video series; in any case, it went down not just as a fun night but a fundraiser whose cause has rarely felt more appropriate: as anti-semetic statements are amplified by some of the biggest names in music. And though the original Hannukah miracle may just be a legend, it’s clear from the night’s joyous energy how Grohl and Kurstin pulled theirs off: there’s no question that they’re total, absolute mensches.