Soundgarden At The Sidney Myer Music Bowl

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Soundgarden At The Sidney Myer Music Bowl


Openers The Bronx tackled what should have been a very daunting support slot with remarkably relaxed confidence. While the majority of the audience seemed fairly apathetic towards the thrash-punk stalwarts, the band’s faithful were still loud and numerous enough to justify a certain amount of swagger on their part. I could certainly respect their energy, as well as the frontman’s ironic sense of humour. (Eg. “Are you feelin’ alright? Whoo, yeah! Now here’s a song about suicide…”) But, at the end of the day, I regard The Bronx as belonging to a class of bands that were (or should have been) superseded when bands like Soundgarden came along.

Starting the ball rolling with the slow ‘n’ steady Searching With My Good Eye Closed, and following with the almost-pop riffs of Spoonman, Soundgarden made a strong start that was marred somewhat by a lousy mix. (Jesus Christ Pose, I’m pretty sure, was a bit more of a churning, distorted miasma than was intended) Thankfully, the sound improved to a reasonable standard by several songs in, leaving nothing to get in the way of an utterly satisfying set.

Over a two hour-plus show, Seattle’s finest went on to give the fans their money’s worth and then some. Eschewing the usual practice of ‘building up’ to the more recognised songs, the band kept things fresh by consistently alternating between cult favourites and airplay hits. Oldies, like the band’s first single Hunted Down, were played alongside more ‘recent’ material like sing-along favourite Burden In My Hand, and none of it sounded aged in the slightest. Perhaps disappointingly, though, no new material was played. Seems they’ll keep us guessing to the end on that…

The performance was sharp, but never rigid, guitarist Kim Thayil knowing just when to inject a little  chaos factor with his anarchic solo breaks (no two of which are ever the same). More importantly, the band still seemed hungry.

But of course, what  the punters really wanted to know (or just see for themselves,  in the wake of many encouraging YouTube clips) was whether Chris Cornell has still ‘got it’. The answer? Yes, god, yes. Chris was happy to flaunt his still-staggering register with his audience call-and-response, and when it came to those piercing, abrasive notes in the Rusty Cage and Outshined (probably the most rapturously-received songs of the entire set), I know I wasn’t the only one whose fingernails digging into sweaty palms in long-awaited satisfaction.

Closing with a faithfully dark and menacing performance of 4th Of July, the band then returned with Beyond The Wheel, which saw Cornell at his most godly and Soundgarden at their most brutal. Indeed, the encore in general seemed to be about proving that the group were just as angry, brooding, and defiantly nonconformist as ever. After a prolonged, grinding and droning performance of Slaves and Bulldozers, the band staggered their final exit over five minutes, eventually leaving Kim alone to coax (or torture) some discordant textures out of his axe. This wasn’t the behaviour of some ‘greatest hits’ peddlers, but of a band who have rediscovered their fire, and are playing as much for their own sake as for their fans – all of which, I’d say, went home satisfied.

BY JESSE SHROCK (pics by Charles Newbury)


LOVED AND HATED: The guy who balanced on the shoulders of the mosh pit during Outshined only to dance the Macarena.

DRANK: At this venue? On my salary? Are you nuts?