Concert Review: Soundgarden @ The Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada
Soundgarden played night 2 of 2 at Toronto’s Sound Academy last night. PeteHatesMusic contributor, Millar, was there last night and has given us his very detailed account of the concert below (minus his post-show hijinks).
Seattle 90’s rock legends Soundgarden broke up in the spring of 1997 at the top of their popularity. I can remember hearing that announcement on the radio and thinking how it sucks that I’ll never get to see them play live. Well, times sure change, Soundgarden decided to get back together in 2010 and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen them twice in concert. The band released their new album, King Animal, last November and it is really, really good. I’m as cynical as you can basically get, so when any 1990’s rock band decides to “get back together” I’m more than a little skeptical. However, with Soundgarden’s new disc and the 2010 Stone Temple Pilots self-titled comeback album, some of these 90’s rock icons are showing they can still write really cool-sounding rock and roll records after spending a long time on hiatus (even if they may be reuniting for the paycheck).
Soundgarden is turning back the clock on their current tour, playing smaller venues like The Sound Academy here in Toronto. The band played shows there on Friday and Saturday night. I was lucky enough to score tickets to the Saturday night show. There would be no opening band, just the mighty Soundgarden live for well over two hours.
Soundgarden had played this same venue the previous evening, so I was seeing the second of two Toronto dates at The Sound Academy. I would have gone to Friday night’s concert but instead gave my tickets to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o – he said his girlfriend was a big fan.
I’m glad I thought to check ahead of time when Soundgarden was supposed to hit the stage. The advertised time for the band’s set to start was 8PM. That seemed unusually early to me but I was excited to find out there would be no opening act. It was closer to 8:20 when the familiar intro to the song Searching With My Good Eye Closed came across the speakers and the stage was bathed in dark blue light. I couldn’t quite make out the cow/rooster/pig noises on account of the massive roar from the eager crowd. The crowd itself had a very large age range, from kids in the early teens to lots of men and women even older than me in their 40’s/50’s. It’s a good sign for the band that their music can transcend so many age groups. The screen on the stage showed the classic logo from the Badmotorfinger album cover, with jagged arrow-looking things arranged in a circle around a triangle. Inside the triangle was the new Soundgarden logo of animal horns with an X thru the base. This would be the backdrop for the first 3 songs.
The band made its way onstage to get the big rock show rolling. The guys are older now, there is some grey in some of the beards, but it was clear as the show got underway that the band still rocks as hard as ever. Guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd were sporting the rock-approved long-sleeve dark shirt/dark jean combo with Thayil adding a hip black fedora-ish type hat. Drummer Matt Cameron, taking a break from his other band, Pearl Jam (never heard of them), was in t-shirt and shorts and looked like he hasn’t aged in 20 years. Lead singer Chris Cornell, scruffy beard-and-all wore a dark t-shirt and jeans, while sporting a massive mop of hair that for most of the show would be in his face. Well, enough of that clothes stuff, this isn’t a bloody fashion blog, I’m just trying to help you picture the show.
Next came another song off the 1991 Badmotorfinger album, Jesus Christ Pose, one of the band’s all time biggest hits. The crowd was going ape-shit for this one and pretty much stayed that way through that entire song and into the next one. That ‘next one’ was Spoonman, another massive hit from the band’s catalogue. In fact, even if you have never heard of Soundgarden, if you were alive in the mid-90’s and accidently listened to rock radio at some point, you’ve probably heard Spoonman.
The backdrop/logo disappeared at the start of the fourth song, By Crooked Steps, a track off the new album, King Animal. When I first heard the new Soundgarden disc, which is really good as I have mentioned, By Crooked Steps was initially probably my favourite song off it and I knew that if I ever saw the band play it live, it would probably kick some ass. I was right! This might be the heaviest song off King Animal and the band did it justice by totally killing it onstage.
It was time to go old school for the next tune, and by old school I mean the 80’s. Gun is off the 1989 album Louder Than Love (they wanted to call it Louder Than Fuck). The song started off slow and heavy before exploding to its high-speed punkish finale. The backdrop lit up with a giant red/yellow skull with a human eye in the middle of its forehead. They must be using TOOL’s art design team.
Rhinosaur off 1996’s Down On The Upside was next. You’ve got to really know your Soundgarden tunes to recognize this lesser-known track. Any casual fan however could recognize the next song, Outshined. In fact, I bet even my dad knows this song having heard me blast it at him so many times over the years through various stereos.
During Outshined, Cornell let the crowd have a go singing the chorus. Damn near everyone in the place must have been singing, because it sounded loud and totally awesome. This song might have gotten the biggest crowd reaction of the night.
Taree, another solid new track came next before the band made their way into Fell On Black Days. I was never a super big fan of this tune, but it’s still another massive hit off the 1994 Superunknown album that a lot of folks still really like.
One song I am a big fan of is Blow Up The Outside World. It was performed next before three newer songs were showcased by the band. Halfway There, Eyelid’s Mouth, and Non-State Actor are all off the new disc, King Animal. The latter two tracks are really superb rock songs that sounded just as good live as on the album.
I was really excited to hear Drawing Flies played, one of my fav tunes off Badmotorfinger. I missed the horn parts live though. The lesser-known Hunted Down followed (off the 1987 Screaming Life EP).
Loud Love came next, I was surprised this song didn’t get a bigger crowd reaction than it did, but it still was awesome to see the band hammer this one out live, such a wicked heavy song I’ve heard a thousand times before but never live until today.
Worse Dreams off the new album preceded Soundgarden breaking out The Day I Tried To Live, one of my favorite of the band’s songs.
Next came the newest single from the band, Been Away Too Long. During the new songs this evening, the band was using a lot of the imagery from the new album on the screen backdrop behind the band. Lots of shots of snow-covered trees, and lots of use of the pile of animal bones from the cover lit up in all sorts of different bright colours. There was a return of the eyeball on the video screen at another point in the show.
It was back to the mid-90’s for the next four songs. Head Down sounded trippy and cool. I could do without Burden In My Hand, was never a fan of this single, but during that song I noticed a young woman up on someone’s shoulders flashing the band. You could say she had a burden in her shirt I guess
and visually it’s now my favourite live track. Superunknown’s title track as well as Fresh Tendrils off the same album followed. Superunknown is a deadly song that sounded so good live and it was nice to hear a more obscure track like Fresh Tendrils played.
Blood On The Valley Floor, my least fav of the songs off the new album, was played before the familiar slow, durge-y intro of 4th Of July came from Thayil’s guitar. The band had the crowd transfixed during this song. When finished the band left for the clichéd encore break.
The band came out bathed in green light to fire up the song Flower, off 1988’s Ultramega OK album. The studio version of this song that most people have heard on the A-Sides greatest hits collection does not do the live version (which can be heard on the Telephantasm collection) justice at all. This song absolutely kills live, and is night and day better than the earlier studio rendering. Cornell was right up at the front of the stage leaning over the first couple rows of people aggressively belting out the tune.
Dusty, another lesser-known track from Down On The Upside (but still a great tune nevertheless), came next. Following that, Cornell started playing a little country-western riff on his guitar. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing but two dudes in front of me pointed out he was playing the intro to the Johnny Cash cover version of Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage. Sure enough, Cornell dropped the country riff and the band launched into their 100 MPH version of the song. Maybe Soundgarden’s best live song? Absolute crowd bonanza during this one, everyone was going nuts.
The very last track played was the psychedelic Beyond The Wheel, which the band also played at the Molson Amphitheatre Toronto show back in July 2011. Kim Thayil started the slow riff on his guitar before the band joined in and Cornell began to wail and scream his way through it. It was a good chance for Chris to really show off his famed vocal range. At the song’s end, Cornell and Cameron left the stage to let Thayil and Shepherd play a symphony of feedback to us for a few minutes. Shepherd departed to leave Thayil alone to experiment with noise onstage before he eventually left making sure to politely wave to all corners of the venue before exiting. So thoughtful Kim. The crowd gave the band a raucous send off, loudly showing their appreciation for such a long, kick-ass rock show.
Overall, it was a very good show. The band probably played for around 2.5 hours, which is really good bang for your concert buck. The band sounded awesome and looked like they were enjoying themselves. Cornell was in classic frontman mode, effortlessly interacting with the crowd and getting everyone pumped up and involved. Cameron and Shepherd could be seen smiling and chatting during the show with Shepherd even taking time to mug around on stage for the cameras for a few songs. Thayil would make shadow figures in the spotlights when he had free time. They looked loose and sounded tight. Cornell told us our crowd on the second night was louder than the crowd the night before (never heard that before at a show), adding it was because the crowd the night before smelled like a lot of weed and was likely very very high.
Only downside to the night were parts of the crowd. By night’s end there was sooooo many drunk morons stumbling around, men and women both. So much rude shoving, even for a rock show, it was ridiculous. I saw drunk dudes trying to carry 3 full beers into the mosh pit by just shoving their way through where there isn’t any room, spilling beer on women around me. Drunk chicks were constantly bumping into me and other people. It didn’t effect my enjoyment of the show but it’s disappointing when so many people are acting like ignorant idiots all around you.
Still, an amazing show. I doubt Soundgarden will ever play a venue that small around here ever again, so I feel super lucky to have been able to make it to one of these concerts. A special shout-out to my little bro for hooking me up with the ticket, thanks bud! I hope Soundgarden continues to tour and keeps making new music when they feel inspired, King Animal is a solid album top to bottom. I hope to hear some more new music in the future.
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PHM Rating for Soundgarden: 8.0 out of 10
Setlist for Soundgarden @ The Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada – January 26, 2013
Searching With My Good Eye Closed
Jesus Christ Pose
By Crooked Steps
Fell On Black Days
Blow Up The Outside World
The Day I Tried To Live
Been Away Too Long
Burden In My Hand
Blood On The Valley Floor
4th Of July
Beyond The Wheel