Photos by Todd Radunsky
The Scene: Following Tuesday’s “Evening With Soundgarden” at Colorado’s 1st Bank Center, it is clear that the nearly 15-year hiatus did nothing to hinder the band’s sound, chemistry, or performance. What the hiatus seems to have done is strengthened both the band and its fanbase – Knights of the Soundtable. It was readily apparent, (before the lights had gone down and the long-awaited Soundgarden took the stage), that for these fans, distance really had made all the difference. Two sisters sat just above the floor section, excitedly, anxiously awaiting the band they had come from Idaho to see. As the lights went down and the band members walked onstage to take position with their respective instruments, the women yelled “we are not worthy!” and bowed their heads in respect to this band that had finally awoken from their extended musical coma. Frontman and lead guitarist Chris Cornell, drummer Matt Cameron, guitarist Kim Thayil and bass guitarist Ben Shepherd had resurrected themselves for Colorado fans in 2011, and they were not finished yet.
Soundgarden: Soundgarden opened with the fan favorite “Spoonman” and a clean, electric sound that proved the band had not lost any of its iconically grunge-rock sound over the years. The set list included old classics like “Outshined,” “Fell On Black Days” and “Blow Up the Outside World,” along with new songs like “Eyelid’s Mouth” and “Taree.” Between songs, Cornell and the band showed their gratitude by thanking the audience, the fans and the city of Denver. Cornell utilized his personal showmanship when making a joke about the altitude of the Mile High City – “We took ready steps with oxygen tanks, but fucked up and got Nitrous Oxide tanks instead,” leading the crowd in rowdy applause and laughter. Later, Cornell addressed the gratitude he felt one more time, in a more serious tone – “Thank you Denver; We always have a great time playing here.” The love and companionship felt between the hard-rocking audience and the grunge-rock band was definitely something to be respected and valued.
The band played each song with an intense passion that could be felt in the farthest seat, doing an incredible job at creating good vibes and maintaining good fun while playing to lyrics that were oftentimes quite seriously complex. Cornell and Thayil took turns with truly electrifying guitar riffs, the most impressive being the monster that anchors “Loud Love.” Resonating with psychedelia on tracks such as Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” Soundgarden showed an instrumental versatility that many bands struggle and strive for years to acquire. “Loud Love” ended with a soft yet rockin’ scream by Cornell, proving his vocal abilities and establishing Soundgarden, in one song alone, to be an awesomely well-rounded and altogether kick-ass group.
The two-track encore began with “My Wave” and finished with “Slaves & Bulldozers” with Cornell hopping up and down on the stage with arms flailing, and the audience following in obedient awe. The evening concluded after “Slaves & Bulldozers” and three band members had departed from the stage, leaving Thayil to handle the audience on his own – and did a phenomenal job of doing so. With his guitar Thayil teased the still-energized crowd for an extra minute or so, leaning into the amplifier and giving the audience one last listen of the sound they had longed to hear for so many years. For this band, what they are is all in the name – a garden of sound, (excuse the cliché); both heavy and light, extreme and smooth, rock and roll. There is no doubt these guys will be back for good, to the benefit of fans and critics alike, but most importantly to the benefit of: Soundgarden.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: A-