Live Review: Soundgarden — The Wiltern, Los Angeles
Sat, 16 Feb 2013 10:15:55
Soundgarden never really went away.
Their influence resounded so loudly that it shaped an entire generation of bands, and it does to this day. Physically, they took a hiatus, yes, but the music remained as prominent as ever. How many times does "Black Hole Sun" or "Fell on Black Days" get spun on the radio weekly or even daily? They're always present. The power of their catalog, especially last year's King Animal, doesn't dwindle on stage either. In fact, as we've mentioned before, it roars to life with its own vitality.
Last night, the legends kicked off a sold out three-night stand at The Wiltern, and the festivities commenced with a bang. The eerie buzz of Kim Thayil's guitar circulated around the packed theater during set opener "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" from Badmotorfinger. Matt Cameron's seismic drumming rose through the haze as Ben Shepherd held down a towering bass groove. At the forefront, Chris Cornell wailed with divine vocal prowess to overwhelming applause.
King Animal's "Attrition" amped everything up with a thrash-y punk fire and surf rock flare. Superunknown opener "Let Me Drown" deftly swam from Thayil's mind-blowing fretwork to a gorgeously haunting bridge from Cornell. It illuminated the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of one of the greatest bands of all time.
"By Crooked Steps", "Spoonman", and "Rhinosaur" wobbled with a transfixing tribal groove, while "Jesus Christ Pose" hit with the hypnotic intensity seguing from crushing rhythms into Cornell's flawless howl. Thayil's psychedelic shredding heated up the snowy bliss of "Taree", accentuated by the entrancing visuals intermittently projected behind the band.
Prefacing "My Wave", the singer explained, "It's more about staying away everything that's mine because it's mine", before grinning, "Now it's just a surf song".
His sly sense of humor peered through the introduction to "Pretty Noose" as he went on to say, "This next song had a deep and specific meaning, and I don't remember what that is".
Yet he clarified that it's about something that "seems like a wonderful thing, and then it pulls you in and kills you like television".
Either way, "Pretty Noose" walked a fine line between a blissful hook and his poetically haunted lyrics. Not to mention, the band sound simply perfect performing that and then an unforgettable "Burden in My Hand". One of the evenings countless standouts was when Cornell picked up an acoustic guitar for "Black Saturday" from King Animal. It's another wild, weird, and wonderful example of Soundgarden's ability to tell a story within song. After "Fresh Tendrils", he pulled an eleven-year-old fan named Charlie on stage to wish him a happy birthday. He offered Charlie a spot on stage to watch the show and the youngster declined to which Cornell smiled, "He's not part of the industry crowd. He wants to be in the audience".
The biggest surprise was a transcendently pummeling rendition of Badmotorfinger's final word "New Damage"—the first in over 15 years. They deftly skated through the apocalyptic sonic crumbling brilliantly. "Mailman" delivered the same kind of dark reprieve, while "Like Suicide" felt, to use the parlance of our times, epic.
The finale—"Outshined", "Rusty Cage", "Dusty", and "Slaves & Bulldozers"—practically razed the building with a cataclysmic combination of sound and visuals. At the end of the two-and-a-half hour journey, one thing stood out clearly. Unlike so many rock bands, Soundgarden don't merely pay homage to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and The Beatles. They're kings in their own right, and they belong right beside them.
Thankfully for music and art's sake, Soundgarden's never going away.
Were you there? What's your favorite song from King Animal?
See our most recent interview with Chris Cornell here!
See our feature on Chris Cornell's "I Promise It's Not Goodbye" here!
See what Pearl Jam, Avenged Sevenfold and more say about Soundgarden here!
See what Metallica, Iron Maiden, Mastodon, Gojira, and More have to say about Soundgarden here!
For more artists talking Soundgarden click here!
See our review of King Animal here!
See our top 25 Soundgarden Songs of All-Time Feature here!
See our feature on "Why Soundgarden Will Save Rock N' Roll with King Animal" here!
See our live review of the band at the Fonda Theatre here!