02/06/13 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
02/07/13 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
02/08/13 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
02/10/13 Vancouver, BC Queen Elizabeth Theatre
02/12/13 Oakland, CA Fox Theater
02/13/13 Oakland, CA Fox Theater
02/15/13 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
02/16/13 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
02/17/13 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
05/05/13 Concord, NC Charlotte Motor Speedway
When I caught wind that reunited (two years strong!) alternative-rock giants Soundgarden were releasing new music AND making a tour stop at Minneapolis, I fell down the stairs. Well... not quite. But getting the breath knocked out of you due to .…
Unleashing “Incessant Mace” from 1988’s Ultramega OK as the first song of the night was just one of many wonderful surprises the band had in store for the wild sold-out crowd. Vintage favorites like “Hunted Down” and “Flower” followed and had the audience going absolutely insane. Fans were punching the air, pointing violently at and screaming with a very lean, curly-haired Chris Cornell, who shut down all the naysayers who assumed he wouldn’t be able pull off those high notes. I am ashamed to admit I was one of those folks (but singing the way he does has got to have an expiration date) However, by the time guitarist Kim Thayil tore into the dirty, chugging “Outshined,” I was begging Cornell’s forgiveness and reveling in that most impressive wail of his. Chris, I will never doubt you again!
The sonic punches kept flying as the band kicked into Superunknown’s “Let Me Drown.” Badmotorfinger’s “Jesus Christ Pose” encouraged a choir of voices to sing along and all eyes were on Cornell as he stretched out his arms in that iconic stance. The heavy throb of “Gun” fluidly gave way to urgent new track “By Crooked Steps” as Thayil stalked the corner of the stage, occasionally trading grins with bassist Ben Shepherd and some very lucky audience members. Drummer Matt Cameron, while stationary behind the drums, isn’t one of those drummers that sulks in the background; not only did he make himself present by pummeling those skins raw, but he was also interacting a lot with the crowd. Tall, stoic Shepherd, who stood on the opposite end of Thayil, experienced tons of love from fans as well; when he wasn’t lost in the music, he was bumping fists with audience members. Clearly, these guys were having as much fun as fans were.
I have to say the best part of the entire show had to be the slew of tracks from my favorite album and Soundgarden’s final album, 1996’s Down on the Upside. Songs I never thought I would ever hear like “Rhinosaur,” “Blow Up the Outside World” and the beautiful, slow-burning “Zero Chance” suddenly filled every corner of the theater and left me feeling very bittersweet. Cornell had been introducing many of the songs, occasionally relating a story, but mostly just murmuring the title into the mic. So when he approached the mic and quickly muttered, “This is called ‘Ty Cobb,’” the joy was almost too much to bear and I nearly toppled over the poor woman in front of me. “Ty Cobb” is pretty rarely heard live track these days which is unfortunate considering that it contains a gleefully caustic chorus (“Hard-headed, f*ck you all”) that is difficult not to sing out loud. Cornell mentioned during the set that the band regretfully skipped Minneapolis on the national tour supporting Down on the Upside - I can’t help but wonder if these Upside gems were selected just for Minnesotans.
Near the end of the concert, Cornell told the crowd that Minneapolis would see Soundgarden again. Just don’t keep us waiting too long, fellas. We’re hungry for more.