When Soundgarden first emerged from the grunge scene way back in 1984, they were the odd stepbrother to the Nirvana/Pearl Jam dynamic duo. Chris Cornell and crew had neither Nirvana's crude power nor Pearl Jam's over earnest muse. Instead, Soundgarden were the muscle-headed stoners who knew every Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath song by heart. Over the course of five albums, Soundgarden grew increasing slick and popular, becoming almost the complete antithesis of the grunge movement.
But Sunday night at the Palladium Ballroom, Soundgarden sounded just fine. Chris Cornell can no longer hit those shrieking high notes like in the days of old, but the band rocked mightily for over two hours. Playing songs from across their spotty catalogue, Soundgarden thrilled the packed house with fan favorites and deep album cuts.
However, The relatively early start time (8:45) and the fact that there was no warm up act caused a number of fans to miss a great deal of the show. At 9:30, there were still many folks lined up at the box office. At $60 a ticket, one would assume fans would check when the show was actually going to start.
But despite such snafus, from the beginning, the crowd's energy was equal, if not better, than the band's itself. Opening with "Searching With My Good Eye Closed," the members of Soundgarden almost seemed surprised by the audience's intensity. And even though Cornell appeared to sleepwalk through a couple of numbers, the crowd acted as if each and every scream was a revelation. Ranging in age from teens to folks seriously considering retirement, these Soundgarden fans are devout, to say the least.
During "Outshined," the fist pumping sing-a-long was downright inspirational. "Jesus Christ Pose" provided another opportunity for the crowd to express its delight by moshing in fevered unison. Even a relatively new song like "Been Away Too Long" was greeted with the kind of ovation you would expect to greet older fare.
Yet speaking of older fare, the only danger in playing deep cuts is that some songs remain deep for a reason. "Ty Cobb" is simply a bad song, a sad wind-up hardcore number that comes across like an unnecessary punk rock retread. Much better were "My Wave" and "Tighter and Tighter," songs that sounded timeless, not tired.
By night's end, the sweaty throng left hoarse and happy. Their college icons had resurfaced and delivered the goods. Soundgarden's meat and potatoes alt-rock was the satisfying meal these slackers and ne'er-do-wells were in dire need of on this Memorial Day eve.