Live review: Soundgarden @ Red Rocks AmphitheatreBy Cassandra Schoon | July 19th, 2011 | 3 comments
The Soundgarden show at Red Rocks last night — the one where a shaggily-bearded Chris Cornell broadcast his trademark wail across a sold-out crowd, where 12-year-olds and their halter-top wearing moms alike headbanged to “Spoonman” and “Fell On Black Days” — wasn’t supposed to happen.
After Soundgarden’s 1997 tour, which ended notoriously with Cornell performing the encore without his fellow bandmembers, the band spent over a decade soundly denying any rumors of a reunion. And yet, under a perfect starry sky, Cornell, Ben Shepherd, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron were there, bringing their seminal grunge rock to life.
Openers the Mars Volta were a solid fit for Soundgarden’s sound (earlier stops on the tour featured Coheed and Cambria, in keeping with a proggy theme). Though their set was tight and animate, the crowd seemed disinterested. The band’s set felt a little clipped, but frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s expansive voice managed to cut through the chatter and stand on its own.
After the briefest of breaks, Soundgarden took the stage, forcefully launching into “Searching With My Good Eye Closed.” Like most reunion shows, the relief was palpable in the crowd as the first song unfolded it exactly as it should; with dialed-in guitars, Cameron’s forceful percussion and of course, Cornell’s unmistakable (and thankfully, unchanged) voice.
The set list covered the majority of Soundgarden’s good years, with choice cuts from “Badmotorfinger” and “Superunknown,” and a few well-received older tunes like “Big Dumb Sex.” Cornell made a crack early on about Colorado’s especially strong dope wafting onto the stage, and as the last third of the show went more psychedelic and improvisational, I wondered if it was starting to take a serious effect on the band. However, the raucous encore, including “Like Suicide” and “Slaves and Bulldozers,” perked up the crowd again. As he left the stage, Sherman chucked his bass into Cameron’s drum kit (a nod to his outburst at their last show in ’97?), with feedback still screeching from the speakers. This was the show that we all thought would never happen. But it did, and it happened just like we hoped it would.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.