:: Soundgarden ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: July 18, 2011 ::
Photos by Lisa Sicliano/dogdazephoto.com
By Joe Kovack
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been here together…We’re back!” Chris Cornell said to a sold out crowd, clad in black combat boots with long hair and ragged beard reminiscent of their hard-hitting grunge days of the early 90s. It was like stepping back in time.
Red Rocks Amphitheater is a venue unique unto itself and has the ability to take the audience away from the outside world and into a shared consciousness to the music at hand. Soundgarden’s set Monday night was no exception. They may have even exponentially elevated that collective consciousness and transported the Amphitheater 15 years into the past. Maybe it was due to the fact that this was their first tour in as many years, but there was an energy that poured from the band and permeated every inch of the venue, accentuating the already high energy of the crowd.
It was a show that mirrored the characteristics of the band itself; no frills, explosions or an absurdly intricate light show, just a stripped down, in-your-face, technically-proficient but heavy/ raw show that showcased the band in their element. It was simple and concise; just four guys playing rock and roll for 9,000 plus people and having the time of their lives.
The almost two-hour long set included hits as well as deeper cuts mostly from Superunknown, Down on the Upside and Badmotorfinger, arguably the bands glory years. With tracks like Spoonman, Black Hole Sun, Superunknown, The Day I Tried to Live, Searching With My Good Eye Closed and 4th of July, there was a little something for everyone. Cornell even personified the song Jesus Christ Pose by addressing the crowd with guitar slung on his back, arms outstretched and head tilted back as if he was the martyred Christ of rock and roll himself.
The music itself was as clean and precise as you can get while still harnessing the sludgy, raw nature of the grunge they rocked 20 years ago. In fact, it was as if they were the reincarnated versions of themselves from that time. Barely looking older than they did then, they exhibited the energy and determination to rock as much as any younger band may today. Their energy wasn’t shown through running around stage or smashing instruments; it was by the intensity with which each note was played and each drum was hit that showed their vitality. It may have been the loudest show I have seen all year (and I see a lot of rock shows).
Chris Cornell’s vocals, though a bit shaky at first, found their stride around the fifth song and never turned back. His signature high-notes soared through the crowd with a presence befitting an opera singer and held true to the very end. Guitar hero Kim Thayil stood stoically to the side, wearing his signature beanie and shredded each song with a determination that only comes from experience. Matt Cameron drummed with brute force, yet controlled the tempo with meticulous beats and bassist Ben Shepherd showed the crowd that having fun is what it’s all about; chuckling with Cameron as he messed up a drum timing during Superunknown . It showed they weren’t just out to tour and play the hits, but that they were truly enjoying themselves in a way they probably haven’t in years.
If you grew up in the 90s and have a special place in your heart for grunge and alternative music, do yourself a favor and see these guys while you can. A new album is rumored to be released in 2012, but seeing them now, with a renewed energy and lust for playing is just as good if not better than waiting for something new. Maybe it was just an aura of nostalgia that intoxicated all those in attendance Monday night, but whatever it was, Soundgarden just fucking rocked.