Soundgarden

support Graveyard
author AP date 09/09/13 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

"At last!", I think to myself as I link up with my Revolution Music compatriot in the foyer of one of Copenhagen's biggest venues, "At last the moment has come that I get to wear a checkered shirt and torn jeans and watch one of my all-time favourite bands rip shit apart." And I am not alone in this sentiment; one can almost taste the anticipation, and in some persons, anxiety produced by Soundgarden's long-awaited return to Danish soil - it has been 17 years - with a new album in the bag. It is more than likely that the fanboy in me will shine through the words that follow, so bear with me as I recount the cathartic show.

All photos by Peter Troest

Graveyard's Joakim Nilsson in moody lighting

Graveyard

Such sweet irony that one of the bands I'd wanted to see for a long time - ever since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2007 - crosses my path tonight for the third time in less than a year (they headlined an excellent concert at Amager Bio in March, and I had the pleasure to see them at this year's Hellfest also); and in the tow of legends, to boot. Indeed, the Swedish heritage rockers are an apt choice of support for Soundgarden's moody grunge, and despite some initial issues with the sound mix pronouncing the low end far too much, they show yet again why Nuclear Blast Entertainment did not hesitate to ink a deal with them a couple of years ago. "An Industry of Murder" is lost in bassy mud, but once the sound engineer turns a few knobs during the always exhilirating "Hisingen Blues", the Swedish maestros, too, up the ante and stage the most energetic performance I've witnessed by them thus far. They take us through a balanced mix of old and new, with the aforementioned "An Industry of Murder", as well "Seven Seven", the phenomenal ballad "Slow Motion Countdown", and "Endless Night" bearing the "Lights Out" flag; "Hisingen Blues", "Ain't Fit to Live Here", "Buying Truth (Tack % Förlåt)" and "The Siren" blazing off the "Hisingen Blues" record; and "Evil Ways" giving us a taste of self-titled antiquity. This is a performance oozing class above all, but also passion and a unique penchant for transporting an audience back to the analogue times of the 70's; and needless to say, it is one which the thousands of Soundgarden fans gathered here receive with quite some enthusiasm.

Chris Cornell - definitely not looking indifferent!

Soundgarden

It is easy to see why Soundgarden do not manage, for some people, to fulfill the expectations accumulated over 17 years of absence (the band's most recent Danish concert took place at KB Hallen in Frederiksberg on October 17th, 1996), for in truth, their presence on stage tonight is hardly a spectacle. But understanding the fundament of the grunge movement, the reserved, even reclusive demeanor is the perfect companion to the band's angst ridden music; and had the more outraged critics actually stood near the front, they, too, would have noticed that Chris Cornell looks the polar opposite of the greedy, indifferent cynic that some of the mainstream media paint him out to be based on his performance tonight. Much in the vein of Alice in Chains, who managed to woo just about everyone at this year's Copenhell festival despite losing power halfway through, there is an air of cool melancholy to his antics, as he treads the stage with heavy steps and dispatches his moody lyrics at us with a voice that certainly hasn't deteriorated during Soundgarden's downtime (though keeping it golden probably owes in large part to Cornell's solo project and involvement with Audioslave since then).

Kim Thayil as his usual reserved, melancholic self.

Soundgarden start their set in powerful fashion with "Flower" and "Outshined", countering the excessive curiosity of those of us cheeky enough to have checked the setlist from the previous concert with one that looks nothing alike, and defy the notorious sound quality of the venue with a philosophy that if every volume knob is screwed to the max, we should be able to hear all of the nuances in the music equally well. It's a philosophy that works surprisingly well, with only minor issues plaguing the audibility of Cornell's singing near the beginning of the set, and converts into a sound mix that has all the feel of a sledgehammer introduced to my chest with each strum and beat. This is a rock show with a colossal R, and the sheer magnificence and unpredictability of the setlist seems sufficient to ensure no one is left un-entertained. But contrary to those grumpy critics voicing their disappointment at the supposedly horrid sound mix (try standing closer to the front, or wearing purpose built earplugs!) and the band's alleged lack of enthusiasm, I find myself serially blown back by how much life there still remains in Cornell, and indeed the band as a whole.

Chris Cornell ripping it!

Granted, this is not a show riddled with interaction or other sort of intimacy; rather, it's bang, bang, bang, one great, nostalgic grunge tune after another delivered as an almost unbelievably heavy, and virtually relentless barrage by a band who may have lost their youth, but not their vigour; to an audience that roars without pause in collective ecstasy. Still, the focus tonight is undoubtedly on the music, and dishing as many songs out as the 23:15 curfew allows - and who could complain with such fantastic material dotting the setlist as "Rhinosaur", "Rusty Cage", the rarely played "Blind Dogs" (in fact, this is the European live debut of that song), "Fell on Black Days", "Blow Up the Outside World" and "Burden in My Hand", alongside the best picks off the band's 2012 album "King Animal". Hearing these songs with the oomph and resonance only a concert setting can cater is, for me, an otherwordly experience; one which I thoroughly revel in.

Ben Shepherd adding some low end.

Obviously, for a healthy portion of attendees the natural expectation is that "Black Hole Sun" will be played at some point, and once it does make an appearance during the encore, the response is expectedly euphoric. As for myself: that song is to me what Oscar Wilde would call a perfect mediocrity; appealing to everyone, and scintillating to no one. It's custom designed to cook up a response, and that response sadly eclipses the excellent, malicious show-concluding piece "Beyond the Wheel", which continues to drone and resonate well past its mark after Cornell has already taken off, like some macabre teaser that's never fulfilled. But no matter, this is an experience I personally have been waiting to check off for 10 years, and despite some minor cosmetic issues, and the band perhaps not quite coming across as triumphant as I had hoped, it is an experience that makes a thorough imprint in my memory.

8

Setlist:

  • Flower
  • Outshined
  • Black Rain
  • By Crooked Steps
  • Rhinosaur
  • Taree
  • Rusty Cage
  • Blind Dogs
  • Non-State Actor
  • Fell on Black Days
  • Blow Up the Outside World
  • Pretty Noose
  • A Thousand Days Before
  • Burden in My Hand
  • Been Away Too Long
  • The Day I Tried to Live
  • 4th of July

--Encore--

  • Hunted Down
  • My Wave
  • Black Hole Sun
  • Beyond the Wheel

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