Soundgarden's grungey return leaves little to complain about at Rogers Arena

Due to its proximity to Seattle, Vancouver has enjoyed a special kinship to the famed grunge bands of the Emerald City. Before making it big the plaid-clad lads in Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, hungry for gigs, would head north to rock our socks off at small venues like the long-shuttered Town Pump in Gastown. We embraced them wholeheartedly, not missing our socks at all. And judging by the loud love expressed both by and for Soundgarden at Rogers Arena last night, that feeling is as strong as ever.

The show kicked off with an acoustically disastrous set by the Meat Puppets, a Phoenix rock trio with alt and punk leanings that’s been around since 1980, off and on, and was a major influence on the grunge scene. The group is composed of founding members/brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, with Shandon Sahm—son of Texas music legend Doug—on drums. The indie icons paid homage to the Seattle sound by performing all three of the Curt Kirkwood-penned tunes Nirvana recorded live for its MTV Unplugged in New York album—"Oh, Me", "Lake of Fire", and "Plateau". They also pulled off a version of the Beach Boys’ "The Sloop John B", during which the shirtless and shockingly pale Sahm substituted his bare fingers for drumsticks.

Taking it up a notch was the night’s other guest, Queens of the Stone Age, which seemed to benefit greatly, soundwise, from the fact that the rink was well padded with bodies by the time it hit the stage. Even though it often had three guitars raging at once, the Josh Homme-led quintet from Palm Desert, California, mostly overcame the soul-withering sound mix that had tortured the Puppets.

"You guys are sick, sick, sick, sick, sick," declared singer-guitarist Homme when it came time to bang out "Sick, Sick, Sick", a tune off the band’s last album, 2007’s Era Vulgaris. When he introduced one song as being "about telling authority to go fuck itself," many in the party-hearty crowd took that as a cue to spark up joints, the show’s heavy security presence be damned. No doubt a lot of the tokers were also fans of Homme’s previous stoner-metal act, Kyuss.

QOTSA’s exhilirating set lit the audience’s fuse, and by the time Soundgarden took the stage the near-capacity crowd was psyched for action. The classic lineup of singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron didn’t spend a lot of time with chit-chat, but got straight to work churning out the riff-driven, Sabbath-influenced hits that ruled the airwaves back in the early- to mid-”˜90s.

The brunt of the band’s 20-some-odd-song set was taken from the double-platinum 1991 Badmotorfinger album ("Rusty Cage", "Outshined", "Jesus Christ Pose", "Searching With My Good Eye Closed") and its five-times-platinum 1994 followup, Superunknown ("Fell on Black Days", "My Wave", "The Day I Tried to Live", "Spoonman", "Black Hole Sun"). Back in the group's heyday the swaying vibe of the latter tune would have led large portions of the crowd to salute it with Bic lighters held on high, but that habit has long been usurped by the mass illumination of camera phones.

Although Soundgarden’s performance wasn’t the stuff of legend, it left little to complain about. Cornell can still screech with the best of them, Thayil brings the six-string dynamite, and the rhythm section is a formidable force. Cameron’s colossal drumwork definitely made him the night’s MVP.

The group ended its three-song encore with the Badmotorfinger track "Slaves & Bulldozers", bolstering it with a few Zeppelinesque bars of the traditional gospel-blues song "In My Time of Dying". Considering the quartet’s obvious indebtedness to the monster riffs of Tony Iommi, it would have been more apt if it had figured out a way to incorporate a Black Sabbath tune instead. But that might have been just a bit too perfect.

Comments (11) Add New Comment
Robert Davis
Amazing concert. My ears def. feel it this morning, but way worth it.
Rating: -106
moose
fuck pearl jam...this was the best band out of seattle bar none......last nite...wow
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Rating: -7
Rodney
I wanted to go but too cheap to buy a ticket!
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Rating: -1
Robert VDW
I worked at the Town Pump in the early 90's, they were magically music times and these guys were at the head of the pack. Thank you Soundgarden for a frelling awesome show.
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Rating: -1
steven kiland
Really enjoyed the concert, totally worth it.
Rating: +179
"Good Dad"...?
...last night was one of the very few I 'almost' regretted being a parent because I couldn't make it, but not quite.
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Rating: 0
Salty One
As soon as Cornell belted out that first lyric of "Searching with my Good Eye Closed" I was 20 years old again. It brought me back to a great time in my life. I was bobbing my head and singing with songs with other guys who were a little thinner and greyer on top but so what. Even got a nice buzz off the fumes. Props to the guys who grew their hair out just for this concert. And it was great to see teens rocking out at the concert who weren't even born yet when Soundgarden came out.

On the downside, it was embarrassing - even funny - watching a few 30-something dudes acting tough on the floor. And you can't drink like you used to when you were 20. There were a lot of tired green and hung over faces on the ferry today.

Maybe the concert wasn't legendary but Soundgarden is one of our generation's great ones.
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Rating: -3
warriorwoman25
I don't understand your comment about Soundgarden's performance not being the stuff of legends. They have consistently wowed the crowds throughout their whole tour. What did you expect them to do or what was lacking in their performance that you would make such a statement?
*scratches head on that one!*
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Rating: -4
girlie66
THEY FUCKIN ROCKED, end of story!
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Rating: 0
Nat
Soundgarden absolutely killed it. The highlight for me was "Gun" followed by "Jesus Christ Pose".Anything off of Loud Love was mind melting. Great show guys!
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Rating: -5
Chadc
Yeah, I saw Soundgarden a few times back in their heyday and although they might have moved around quicker or perhaps more spastically I wouldnt say this show was lacking due to age . In fact compared to seeing them supporting their last album when it was noticeable not all parties were into it , this performance was markedly better .
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Rating: -4
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