I was a freshman in high school when “grunge” was trending. I’ll be honest with you … I was more of a Pearl Jam fan, and often pledged allegiance to Pearl Jam over Soundgarden, but over the years I’ve realized that that was just plain stupid. Stupid, unfounded childhood preferences. To think of all the amazing music I would have missed out on if I still thought so close minded today.
Plain and simply, Soundgarden’s music kicks ass. This concert is supporting their current album “King Animal”. I wrote my review on the album here. They’ve been on an 18 year hiatus. Who knows whether their reunion was more for the money than for the music, but I could give two shits about that. Their music still kicks ass; their older songs holding fast against the sands of time- I think Morrissey would agree…..
I saw this concert tour as a musical blessing that couldn’t be passed up. I remember waking up early to get online for the ticket pre-sale (and those who know me, know that I HATE paying the ticketing service fees). I remember clicking the refresh button at least 50 times to finally get through to purchasing my tickets. That ticket confirmation email was like digital nirvana (no grunge pun intended). I mean there were some that thought that Soundgarden would never perform together again. After all, the band disbanded after their release of “Down on the Upside” on very acrimonious terms, most stemming from creative differences.
The concert was everything Soundgarden fan could hope for. They played a solid set-list, powering through over 2 hours of material, covering their entire catalogue. Now, if you were a “new” Soundgarden fan, you were probably expecting a bit more “excitement” from the set. The Wiltern had a “No Moshing, Stage Diving” policy, so that may have put a little damper on things. And while Chris Cornell has an amazing rock-and-roll voice, his stage presence is a little, to put it bluntly, boring. It also could have helped if it wasn’t so sweltering in the venue. But while the stage performance may have been a little lacking, their music makes up for it.
The acoustics in the Wiltern were adequate. My friends found some space stage right about 2/3 the way in from the rear. I spent parts of the show roaming the venue, and thought that the acoustics were better in towards the rear of the venue. I also thought that the bass was a little too overpowering at times, but that could have very well been a result of my cheap ear-plugs. I thought that on the louder songs of the set, Chris voice got drowned out at times. The drumming, in my humble opinion, was excellent. Matt Cameron smashed it, and was perhaps the most lively up on stage. Not the most perfect concert levels, but bearable.
A friend of mine noted that towards the end of the show, before the encore, Ben Shepherd- the bassist- appeared to be pissed about something, throwing his bass off-stage, stage left. I can’t speculate as to why it was done, but it was something to note… new inter-band turmoil arising?… or just band levels?…
A little personal side story to the show: I am a self-professed music dweeb. I’m big into music memorabilia. I bring a poster tube with me to shows. If that isn’t too dweeby for you … LOL. I was waiting in line for merchandise, when the guy right in front of me got an autographed copy of the poster. I asked the sales people what was up with the signed poster, and they said that Soundgarden signed a handful of the posters and they were randomly inserted into the pile. I offered some extra cash on the side if they could sift through the stack for another signed poster, and after flipping through the top 10 copies, they said they couldn’t go through the whole pile (apparently there were 150 posters printed for the event. I still bought a poster, but I told them that I would keep swinging by to check in.
I hit up the merchandise booth several other times throughout the evening, and the last time I showed up they said that there were no more signed copies of the poster. I was bummed, but figured that that was life. As I was about to head back inside to the show, the guy I had been bugging throughout the night just happened to add, “Well, there is 1 signed vinyl left…”
WHAT!?!?! Of course I’d buy that! In fact, it was the perfect night cap to the evening. After all, my deluxe vinyl is still in its shrink wrap. I tipped the guy $10 for hook up on the souvenir.
I ended up hitting up a bar where a buddy of mind hosts and DJs karaoke after the show. I showed him my treasure from the evening, and recounted some of the highlights- and not, I didn’t sing “Outshined” even though I had bothered my friends with a rendition of it all day. I called my cabbie (in LA, it’s a must to have the number of a cab that can pick you up without waiting) and we spoke about the show. I told him it was “great”, but what I really wanted to say was that it was “good”. I don’t want to diminish the concert in any way, after all the simple fact that they are performing again is, in its own right, amazing, but I still wanted more.
Below is the setlist. I’ve inserted a couple video snippets of “Outshined” and “The Day I Tried To Live” (a couple of my favorite songs). The Saturday setlist was the short setlist of the three day stint at The Wiltern.
In anticipation of the Soundgarden concert I’ll be going to later today (2/16/13) at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, today’s album review will be that of Soundgarden’s latest album, “King Animal”.
The picture above is the King Animal box set that I purchased. No, the picture above isn’t the box set that I purchased. Mine is still in its plastic shrink wrap. I’m a music dork, what can I say? Instead, I can only look at this picture and gain some satisfaction knowing that my set will rest in pristine condition until … well … who knows …
“King Animal” is Soundgarden’s 6th studio album, and first in 18 years. It was released on November 12, 2012 (one day before my birthday!) and received very solid reviews across the board, and I agree with all of them.
The production quality on this album is so much more polished than their prior albums. Each guitar lick is steady like a metronome, and pierces through without being intrusive, with the drums anchoring the steady count. I mean, just listen to “By Crooked Steps”.
Let’s not forget about Chris Cornell’s ability to wail through songs. His voice definitely sounds more mature than on the prior Soundgarden albums, but he can still wail. Check out “Black Saturday”. Though his voice may not be able to hit ALL of the notes he used to be able to sing, he’s smart enough to write melodies that fits the voice he as today.
The album starts with a bang. “Been Away Too Long” (very fitting title, by the way), the first track, is classic Soundgarden. Big and loud, it’s the kind of song that makes you want bust out the air guitar and fantasize about being a rock star. Other highlights for me include “A Thousand Days Before”, “Non-State Actor” and “Blood on the Valley Floor” (which, for me, sounds like a slowed down “Spoonman”). Coincidently, all of these tracks are in the first third of the album.
The rest of the album seems to be more toned down that the songs at the start of the album. I’m not sure if that’s what the band was looking to do, but that’s how it feels. I can’t say I particularly liked “Attrition”, “Taree”, “Halfway There” or “Eyelid’s Mouth”. They are average songs to me. In fact, and I hate to even say this, but “Halfway There” and “Eyelid’s Mouth” almost feels like <gasp> soft rock.
The album, as a whole, doesn’t finish as hard as it opens, but that’s besides the point. This is still a solid album. And if you are a Soundgarden fan, you will not be disappointed. I’m excited about what the future holds for them. The album was produced by Adam Kasper, but I’d love for them to branch out and get a cutting edge producer to do the next album… “Hello, is this Jack? Is Jack White there?”…