May 26, 2013
The Palladium Ballroom
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Mike Taylor
Photos by Jeff Jones
Band of Brothers Reunite
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm somewhat obsessed with Soundgarden. Not ashamed in the least to admit it either. Over the past 25 years, I've seen the band go from an opening act for Danzig of all people, to their legendary 1992 Lollapalooza appearance with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry and future superstars, Pearl Jam. Yes, this Seattle-based group ruled rock in the early to mid-'90s before too much tension and stress finally broke the wires holding the band together.
With a number of high's this band provided in its ten-year career, the obvious low came with the break-up in 1997. Needless to say, the announcement by Chris Cornell he was reuniting with his band of brothers 13 years later surprised the rock world and excited long-time fans who thought it would never happen. I didn't see the 'reunion' tour in 2011 and somewhat glad I didn't. With a new album under their belt, the 2013 version of these grunge heroes was the place, and the time, to see this legendary foursome perform on stage once again.
Soundgarden's Memorial Weekend show at the Palladium in Dallas was a homecoming of sorts. I wasn't the only one who felt that way. The venue was sold-out tight by rabid fans that not only understood the band's musical history, but couldn't wait to see what surprises were in store for them. Interestingly enough, this venue was also populated by the die-hards who could care less if the band played any of their "hits." And if you attended this concert hoping you'd hear "Black Hole Sun", "Burden in My Hand" or "Spoonman", you were severely disappointed. For those who appreciated the less often played tunes in the band's repertoire, this concert was literally a trip into the 'super unknown.'
The packed house was thrilled when the grunge masters pulled out literally eight deep cut treasures in a row primarily culled from their best known recordings, 1992's Badmotorfinger and its multi-platinum successor two years later. In fact, it was the lesser known "Searching with My Good Eye Closed", from the '92 album, that sent this 'in-the-know' crowd into an immediate state of aural delight. It also began a treasure trove of lesser played gems that glittered like stars as the band paraded them out on stage. Thankfully, it would seem like those 'hits' never stopped popping up as the band played on.
Chris Cornell's voice was perfection. I really don't know any other way to describe it. Honestly, he sounds better today than he did 20 years ago when the band was at its prime. The severest test to his vocal chords came with the super-heavy classic "Beyond the Wheel" from their 1989 debut album, Ultramega OK. There's something hypnotic about Cornell's voice that draws you to him no matter what kind of material he's singing. His voice was anchored by the brilliant guitar playing of the vastly underrated Kim Thayil. Couple that one-two punch with the monster rhythm section of Ben Shepherd on bass and Matt Chamberlain on drums; and you can see why this crowd was at a fever pitch throughout the two-hour show.
Highlights included the cool groove of "Eyelid's Mouth" from the band's first studio album in over 16 years, King Animal. The five cuts from the record added an interesting element to the show, but for some reason, these new tracks lacked the intensity of the older material most this audience wanted to hear. It was also interesting to see how different songs affected those in attendance. The vulgar and energetic "Ty Cobb" had the crowd whipped into an absolute frenzy. "Fell on Black Days" however, calmed things down as fans sang loud and proud every single note to this hit single from the Superunknown disc.
Sadly, "Ugly Truth" was the only tune played from what I consider the finest recording of the band's six-album catalog, Louder Than Love. Yes, it most certainly predates their more commercial appealing records that followed, and perhaps that's why it's a standout in my book. Regardless of personal preferences - and everyone had one this evening - most of the songs on the set list were played a little bit heavier than the recorded versions, and this approach pleased all the sweaty lunatics in attendance.
Fan favorite "Rusty Cage", and the lone encore, "Slaves & Bulldozers" ended a great night of brilliant rock and roll by a group whose music literally changed the course of rock music in the early '90s. And not to sound nit-picky, which this is going to be, but the show would have been ideal had those on stage managed to throw in perhaps "Big Dumb Sex", "Get on the Snake", Hands all Over" or even "Loud Love". But seriously, this was not a night to complain, but rather celebrate one of the timeless rock bands my generation will ever witness.
Yeah, it's a bold statement. Thankfully, Soundgarden can more than back it up.
Searching with My Good Eye Closed
Let Me Drown
Jesus Christ Pose
Beyond the Wheel
Been Away Too Long
Tighter & Tighter
A Thousand Days Before
Blood on the Valley
Fell on Black Days
Blow Up the Outside World
Slaves & Bulldozers