Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ripple Field Report - Soundgarden 2/16/13 at the Wiltern

“Phenomenal”, concluded one of thousands who were exalted enough to enjoy the triumphant return of the once and hopefully future kings of grunge/alternative metal/hard rock/Seattle swagger or whatever else sort of label you want to try to hurl at Soundgarden and see if it sticks. Truer word…

So one might have expected Chris Cornell and company to string together a series of (too?) familiar radio-friendly hits like “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” to please the across-the-generations masses?  Errrr, not exactly.  Try the likes of “Blind Dogs”, “Ugly Truth”, and “Get off the Snake”, the band clearly opting to treat the audience to lesser-known nuggets, particularly from the band’s early heavier, more opaque period.  One of the significant features of the band’s current tour is their nightly variations on their set lists, including the opening songs chosen each evening:  the Wiltern faithful were serenaded to 1987’s “Nothing to Say” to kick off the festivities, which I reckon less than 5% of the crowd had even heard once.  In fact only two songs featured from their celebrated penultimate project “Down on the Upside”, one of which being the fairly obscure, rioutous speedthrash anthem “Ty Cobb”.  No matter.  Each and every morsel in the band’s two hours and twenty minutes on stage was delectable.

Highlights included Cornell embracing drummer Matt Cameron’s son Ray after he joined the band for the guitar licks on the weighty new track “Eyelid’s Mouth”; the delightful new single “By Crooked Steps”, careening back and forth among time signatures;  opening encore “Searching with my Good Eye Closed”; and most particularly closing song “Rowing”, the stellar final track from King Animal which just might be the band’s most shining moment ever, sounding like a long lost remnant of the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack.  Underscored by a rock-solid Cameron shuffle and inspired virtuoso lead bass lines from Ben Shepherd, it drips spirituality as it builds slowly to a cathartic climax, Cornell intoning such understated pearls as “Living is cheating if you’re not pulling oars “.

If one had to quarrel with any aspect of the evening it might be that other than consummate frontman Cornell’s frequent banter with the audience, the other three came off as just a bit standoffish and aloof, most particularly guitar god Kim Thayil, who seemed positively stoic and wooden as he churned out virtuoso riff after riff.  Maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s because he was deep in thought formulating new compositions to feature in a most-welcome future project to quench the thirst of this band’s most loyal legions of followers.

See official set list below

--Rhythm Slayer

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