Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: © Stephen Brophy
Having always had a liked Soundgarden’s work throughout their career and being a huge Chris Cornell fan, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to catch them live in Dublin. However the last time I saw the band was at Download 2012 and they really didn’t impress me too much, it was very much a going through the motions set, with the exception of Cornell the others didn’t seem to want to be there.
This time, it’s an indoor venue and in comparison to Download an intimate one. The support tonight is Swedish band Graveyard, who I’m a huge fan of, their 70’s induced groove rock hits a real chord with me and although they may have loaded the start of their set with slower tempo tracks they really got into their stride in the second half and I have no doubt by the reaction at the end that they have gained some new Irish fans.
My curiosity is drawn to a few different things during the changeover before Soundgarden take the stage. First off, there’s a distinct lack of additional equipment for a headline band in a venue of this size, now don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with the minimal approach, but no screens, no back drops, a couple of amps in the middle of a massive stage, seems normal, well ok, lets take a turn for the bizarre, out comes a vacuum cleaner ? yes they have one guy bring it out and another start hoovering the stage, but why ? who the hell knows, it’s bizarre. After a short period of time the band take to the stage, and open up with “Incessant Mace” which just didn’t come off very well as an opener and the sound was also off, the bass wasn’t coming out clear and Ben Shepherd wasn’t happy about it from the start, and appeared to do a tour of the amps and monitors to try and locate the problem, but to no avail, add to that something not sitting right with the vocals on the first couple of tracks and I’m starting to worry a little, they move through “Hunted Down” and “Flower”, sandwiching a nice to hear “Ty Cobb”, but I don’t think the band are starting to hit their stride until “Outshined” kicks things up a gear. Moving straight into “Spoonman” and now I’m right in it, this is classic Soundgarden, whatever issues with sound, the slightly sad cinema screen behind the stage now fades into the depths of my mind.
Next up is “My Wave” which probably has the imagery on the screen that I was paying attention to as it coordinated well with the track as it played. To me the set just didn’t flow that well, but then again they aren’t really that type of band, they come they do what they do and they go home, to me Cornell is a different animal as a solo artist and has more freedom to express himself and I think, well from my limited experience of Soundgarden live, his vocals are much better. From here the band ran through “Been Away Too Long”, “The Day I Tried To Live” , “Mailman” and then “Limo Wreck” which was a nice surprise, having apparently not been aired live for 15 years, then again up and down a little with Ugly Truth and Non-State Actor before we kicked up a notch again for a really good run of “Burden In My Hand”, “A Thousand Days Before”, “Fell On Black Days”, the always excellent “Blow Up The Outside World” and “Superunknown”. The crowd were really into it at this stage with a lot more movement in the middle, but that was when the band left the stage, with Cornell just leaving a guitar leaning against an amp humming away, this was a set ending at Download that I thought was pretty crappy, leaving me wondering were they just not up for this tonight and was that the end of the show.
Thankfully not as they came back out a few minutes later to fly into “Rusty Cage”, a personal favourite of mine, but then killed all of the energy they had going with “Like Suicide”, which don’t get me wrong is a song I really like, but it’s a bit of a downer in an encore. The show ended with “Beyond the Wheel” and then a really annoying 10 minutes plus of an aural assault with just Ben and Kim on stage backs to the crowd and a lot of puzzled looks going on. The weird and at times wonderful Soundgarden for me at least just didn’t hit enough highs tonight, not a bad gig, but certainly not blown away either. Till next time I live in hope.
Been Away Too Long
The Day I Tried to Live
(First time live since 1994)
Burden in My Hand
A Thousand Days Before
Fell on Black Days
Blow Up the Outside World
Beyond the Wheel