I remember the exact moment I became cognizant of live shows and the fact that I could go to them. I was about 14 and I saw an ad in The Rocket
for Soundgarden and Everclear at the Salem Armory. I was intrigued, but I wasn’t a big fan of Soundgarden’s most recent release Down on the Upside
, so I shrugged it off. Shortly after that they broke up, and my first show ended up being Korn and Sweaty Nipples. We all make mistakes…
Thankfully, Soundgarden reunited, and the gods of rock 'n' roll saw to it that I got another chance to see my prepubescent self’s favorite band. The 14-year-old in me was doing back flips, but the adult in me had a few questions and concerns. What would the crowd be like? What songs would they play? How much of the new record would we get? Can Chris Cornell still hit the notes he belts on some of those classic tunes?
Upon arrival at the Schnitz, the crowd ended up looking just as I suspected. Late 30- to early 40-somethings, clean cut or balding, modest jeans, leather jackets pulled from the back of their closets, and breasts pushed up as high as they could go. A whole pack of professional, desk jockey, suburban yuppies that left their tweens alone at home so they could relive their glory days. It was the next-generation big ticket. Our parents pay upwards of $300 to see the Rolling Stones and the Eagles, and aged Gen Xers pay $80 to $100 to see Soundgarden.
As for the band, they looked good and played better. They weren’t much for show. Kim Thayil was stoic and emotionless, letting his fingers do the talking. Matt Cameron chugged along, chomping on gum and playing every nuance of his strange drum style. Ben Shepard looked like an extremely pissed off version of Lemmy in the beginning of the set, but seemed to start enjoying himself about half way through. And despite all my worries, Chris Cornell sounded like a million bucks. He was as shrill and in-tune as he ever was.
The set ended up being a perfect smattering of their discography. They even played “Ty Cobb” and “Big Dumb Sex,” no doubt setting the record for the most times “fuck” was uttered under the ornate ceiling of the Schnitz. The tracks from the new slab King Animal fit in just fine with the old cuts, and didn’t stop any the moms from doing their mom dances.
The best part of the whole show…no “Black Hole Sun.” They didn’t play the one track that truly broke them, the one that 75 percent of the audience was really looking forward to hearing, the one that they are probably sick to death of. What balls. That would be like Motorhead playing a set without “Ace of Spades,” which someday I hope they do.
There was not one moment of disappointment through out the entire evening. The 14-year-old in me was truly appeased, and the adult can’t wait for more. Welcome back, Soundgarden.