When the best male pipes were being handed out,
baby Cornell must have kicked aside several people both in front
of and behind him and taken more than his fair share. Even though
his voice cracked a couple of times in the thin dry air (and
possibly from the attrition of touring), Cornell still sings rings
around almost any other male vocalist out there, no matter the
genre. The acoustics at 1stBank were a little rough at times, as
it could be hard to make out what Cornell was singing, but just
hearing Cornell hold a long, raucous screaming note more than made
up for it.
Back at the start of the ’90s, when the mighty Seattle quartet of
Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden rose up to
slay the hair metal dragon, it was Soundgarden that hewed closest
to the metal genre of any of its contemporaries. Nirvana veered
into thrash punk. Alice in Chains built melody and harmony into
its hard rock fury, and Pearl Jam built on the classic rock
foundation so ably laid by Led Zeppelin and the Who. Meanwhile,
Soundgarden didn’t sound out of place with metal titans Metallica
on the 1996 Lollaplooza tour (at the insistence of Metallica).
Live, Soundgarden’s detuned songs and alternate time signatures
create a blend of bombast and thunder that shook the walls of the
Soundgarden got into it early, launching with a brilliant
“Spoonman” that had Cornell doing double duty on lead vocals and
rhythm guitar, while guitarist Kim Thayil riffed in time with
Cornell over drummer Matt Cameron’s thunderous pounding. Cornell
still had no difficulty hitting the high notes early.
Almost a third of the setlist consisted of material from the
band’s most recent CD, “King Animal” including a strong take on
“By Crooked Steps” on which Cornell ended with a cool echo effect
on his guitar that rang through the rafters.
While the bombast was in force for much of the night, the band
veered into more melodic territory at times, such as on the
haunting “The Day I Tried to Live,” which started slowly over Ben
Shepherd’s hooky bass line before exploding into the soaring
Perhaps the highlight of the night was “Never the Machine
Forever,” on which Cameron and Shepherd synched in a groove that
sounded dark and foreboding, furious and frenetic, while Cornell’s
trademark wail lifted the song into overdrive.
On the first encore, “My Wave,” Cornell introduced a “super fan”
who had talked with the band earlier in the day, and Cornell let
the guy live out a dream by having him jam on guitar. The show
closed with a feedback wail from Thayil on the tail end of “Slaves
and Bulldozers” that seemed a perfect close to a great rock show.
By Candace Horgin
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