The first single on Soundgarden’s new album King Animal is called ‘Been Away Too Long,” which is apt, given the band’s 15-year hiatus from the public eye. But when the quartet took the stage and launched into Ultramega OK‘s “Incessant Mace” in front of a sold-out crowd at NYC’s comparatively tiny 1,100-capacity Irving Plaza yesterday (13), it was like it was the mid-’90s all over again. The show was one of three intimate club shows to celebrate the release of the album, which came out yesterday, with the next in Toronto on Friday (16) and the following on November 27th in Los Angeles.
Chris Cornell’s voice sounded mostly vintage, not quite as dynamic as in his prime, but still far better than most hard rock singers out there. The show was ridiculously packed (a sold-out Lamb of God show in January felt empty compared to this), and there was a really serious vibe of one giant, old-school music industry hang rather than the kind of intense energy they had when they were opening for Voivod 23 years ago, but hey, let’s not begrudge the guys that point. And as soon as they launched into “Gun,” with the band’s lurching Sabbath-ian swagger and Cornell’s vocals, that quickly became moot. The band doesn’t have to move around the way they did in the past to make it believable, and the band seemed very comfortable with each other and 15 years of gray hair. Also, nice Neurosis shirt, Kim Thayil!
“This is kind of a record release party,” Cornell explained. His banter was at once casual and grunge as hell, but as they gained momentum to power through “Room a Thousand Years Wide” and “Spoonman,” the band’s low-key enthusiasm was a glorious moment. Though Soundgarden’s softer side eventually kicked in, one of Cornell’s last sentences of the night was the most important of all: “We’re gonna play one more song, but we’re gonna play it for like 35 minutes.” And then the immortal “Slaves and Bulldozers” happens, punctuated at the end by a good 10 minutes of Thayil and Ben Shepherd pulling feedback out of their amps. A good way to finish off.
Except…they weren’t quite done! The band came back one more time for “Rusty Cage,” after 25-30% of the audience walked out and left the stubborn ones who in many cases had been waiting for hours at the venue or years of their lives for this show. Everyone got on the floor, flipped out for 5 minutes, and there you have it – Soundgarden blew up New York last night.
Jesus Christ Pose
By Crooked Steps
Room a Thousand Years Wide
Been Away Too Long
Fell on Black Days
Blow Up the Outside World
Blood on the Valley Floor
Slaves & Bulldozers