Soundgarden @ The Patriot Center – July 12th, 2011

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Grunge. I remember well how it came along like an avalanche from nowhere and killed off the pop music and hair metal of the 80s. Most of the remaining metal went further underground again for a few years while everyone jumped on the Nirvana/Soundgarden/Pearl Jam/Alice In Chains bandwagon, myself included. My favorite band from the time was and is Nirvana, with Alice In Chains coming in a close second. Too bad both their singers are dead now. For many years Soundgarden were broke up and the members went separate ways. Chris Cornell did Audioslave and some solo albums; Matt Cameron is with Pearl Jam.

Now Soundgarden are back together and touring with their old material. Chris promised they would come back next time and do new material. They are apparently working on a new album.

We arrived at the Patriot Center and while Anthony was sent packing back to the vehicle to deposit his wallet chain (or something) I managed to sneak my camera past the TSA-wannabe at the door who felt everyone up. Tom and I grabbed overpriced plastic cups filled with the worst beer America has to offer while waiting for Anthony to return. So I have to mention this; Tom and I get carded by the lady with the beer bracelet. Ok, fine… I’ve been there done that. But then when we get to the counter they make us show ID again. I pointed to the bracelet and they said they still needed to see ID. So, can anyone tell me why I bothered getting the wrist band if you have to show ID anyway? Virginia be crazy.

So Anthony returned and the three of us made our way to our seats where we had already missed a good portion of the opener Mars Volta. Personally, that was a blessing because I’ve never liked Mars Volta and they just looked and sounded like a really bad garage jam band. So before long they left the stage and set up began for Soundgarden.

Soundgarden hit the stage in short order (about fifteen minutes compared to the typical half-hour changeover at big shows) and opened with “Searching with my Good Eye Closed”. Between songs Chris promised they were going to play a long time, and they did at around two hours and fifteen minutes. They played most of their hits: “Black Hole Sun”, “Fell on Black Days”, “Spoonman”, “Burden in My Hand”, “Outshined”, “Rusty Cage” and so on. I was disappointed they didn’t play “Pretty Noose” but they really did cover everything else. The majority of the tracks came from “Badmotorfinger” and “Superunknown” but they also played a few tracks from the first two albums.

I don’t know if this is the norm for Soundgarden or if it was just one show, but while they sounded great, there wasn’t a lot of energy behind the vocals at times. “Black Hole Sun” in particular it sounded like Chris was taking some serious downers. The song isn’t all that peppy to begin with, but the chorus at least gets kind of loud, but live he almost mumbled through the chorus. I know some bands do things differently live, for example the Ramones always played songs live nearly twice as fast as they did on record. So maybe the trade-off of energy for deep heaviness is just part of the Soundgarden way.

That was something else I wasn’t expecting: how amazingly heavy they were live. The drums and the bass were so heavy it was like being crushed by gravity. Seriously, if Pete Steele were alive and attending he would have been “Damn, that’s heavy.” They must have tuned down two steps or more because that low-end was lethal. I absolutely loved that about the show. I was really expecting to see a commercial rock show geared toward the masses of fans, but what we really saw was a metal show geared toward the hardcore fans. I cannot wait to hear what this new album is going to sound like.

Soundgarden closed their encore out with “Slaves & Bulldozers” which was a pummeling wall of sound. At the end of the song Matt Cameron left the stage and we made haste for the doors; guitar feedback continued to screech even as we exited into the outside world.