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all words: Matthew Shaver
all photos: Dakota Fine

Soundgarden is a name with a lot to live up to, especially when you spent a good portion of your time in the limelight hobnobbing with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I spent a lot of time seriously contemplating not going to the reunion tour.  I mean, Soundgarden was the first concert I ever went to.  Can they still live up to that name and what it means for a legion of fans?

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Will my memories come crashing down and spill out like red wine on the white carpet of my nostalgia, ruining the “perfect” recollection I have of that very special night 15 years ago?  Are they too old, can they hang, will it just plain suck? After Tuesday night, I realize that I should learn to stop worrying so much and leave the hard work to the professionals.

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Chris Cornell, Ben Shepherd, Kim Thayil, and Matt Cameron cared too much to let that night be anything less than epic.  When the house lights dimmed and they took the stage, the bright spot lights dawned over the giant backdrop that revealed the cover of Badmotorfinger.

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The crowd roared to life, and, from the first chords of “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”,  it was game over.  Any doubts about whether or not they “still have it” came crashing down, 15 years of memories disappeared, and I was a teenager again.

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They did everything in their power to shatter the walls of the Patriot Center. Cornell howled and screamed his voice as high as it would reach, grasping for the ceiling at the height of songs like “Jesus Christ Pose”, and bringing the crowd down to the depths of their inner selves on “Fell On Black Days” and the epic finale of “Slaves and Bulldozers”.

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They hit on every single album they have, and played all of the hits you could want to hear.  For 2 solid hours they brought it back to 1993, and we all shared in the dusty little collective once known as Grunge.

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I shared it with the couple in front of me, who had driven up from Florida to see them for the man’s birthday.  They had seen Soundgarden perform in 1993 and, according to them, there is a good chance that was the night their first son was conceived.  I shared it with the middle aged man on the floor who, balding and dressed in khakis and a button down dress shirt, was not only in the middle of the mosh pit, but instigating most of it.  I shared it with the girl that handed her sign of song requests to Chris, watched as he acknowledged it, and played “Mailman” just for her.  I shared it with the man that Shephard personally handed his setlist over to.  I shared it with the entire crowd when Cornell held up his phone to record the sound of a thousand people cheering for them.  “I’m sending this to the police, so they know who you are!  They already know who we are!” All that mattered to us is that we knew who they were, and most importantly, still are.

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The opening act, Mars Volta, may want to have a long talk with their booking agent.  The avant-garde rock band comes from a pretty storied background themselves.  Founding members Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala were part of post-hardcore kings At The Drive-In.  Though this is the second time I have seen them open for a band with which they were not exactly a sonic match (the first was at a Red Hot Chili Peppers show years ago).

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The band, though, seems to have been aware of this, and acknowledged that most people in attendance may not “get” their sound, but they were gonna try and make some friends anyhow. Cedric pranced around the stage with A-list rock swagger, taking the time to make love to the stage between bouts of swing dancing with the mic stand, while the rest of the band pounded away, trying to keep up.

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Most of the songs veered between epic space rock noise, and more straight forward hard guitar riffs, and every so often they would slow into a near psychedelic realm. Odd time signatures and obvious jazz influences may make them hard to swallow for the masses, but there is no doubt they love what they do, and rock it harder than anyone else doing it.

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The vocals were muffled and I couldn’t make out enough to really try and find one song in particular to seek out later on, but it is my understanding that The Mars Volta is not about the single, it’s about the whole album, something not too many people really try to do anymore, and for that, I commend them.

Soundgarden Setlist

  • 1) Searching With My Good Eye Closed
  • 2) Spoonman
  • 3) Let Me Drown
  • 4) Gun
  • 5) Jesus Christ Pose
  • 6) Room A Thousand Years Wide
  • 7) Blow Up the Outside World
  • 8) The Day I Tried To Live
  • 9) Fell On Black Days
  • 10) Ugly Truth
  • 11) Loud Love
  • 12) Outshined
  • 13) Flower
  • 14) “Stuck in line at the restrooms”  *sigh*
  • 15) Black Hole Sun
  • 16) Burden In My Hand
  • 17) Superunknown
  • 18) 4th of July
  • 19) Face Pollution

Encore

  • 20) Beyond The Wheel
  • 21) Mailman
  • 22) Like Suicide
  • 23) Slaves and Bulldozers

Mars Volta:

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More Soundgarden:

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