Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Live Review- Soundgarden and Graveyard at the 02 Dublin- 16/09/2013
I must admit, I felt a certain amount of trepidation about seeing a reformed Soundgarden live, especially at the cavernous 02 in the heart of Dublin's docklands, which embodies everything that's shit about arenas.Six euro for a pint,sound of ,to be kind, variable quality depending on where you stand in the arena, and of course that horrific blue light emanating from the ceiling that puts one in mind of a Burger King toilet.Rest assured, whatever else happens in those ridiculously overpriced balcony seats, it's unlikely to involve any intravenous drugs.
Then there's the small matter of my ridiculously high expectations.Ever since the moment a decade ago that I picked up 'Superunknown' from the racks of my local Golden Discs store(don't look for it, its not there anymore) and decided to take a punt seeing as it was only eight quid and I liked 'Black Hole Sun', I have been a massive Soundgarden fan.One of the few heavy bands apart from Mastodon, Alice In Chains and Clutch that even my Radiohead loving 'indie' mates agreed were fantastic, Cornell and co's body of work, in particular 'Superunknown' and 'Badmotorfinger' ,were afforded a most lofty position in my pantheon of musical idols.
Then some stuff happened.Audioslave stuff.Timbaland stuff.More, even crappier Audioslave stuff after that, and my hero worship of Cornell faded a little.At least,I assured myself, Soundgarden would never be tainted for me, being as they swore that they would never reform, and no amount of money could tempt them to say otherwise.Except,of course, they did reform, and lo and behold,we have 'King Animal' ,a record which has proved divisive among many hardcore fans, myself included.Brilliant in places, in others it sounded weak, and like a band trying too hard to recapture former glories.However, when it was announced the Seattle quartet would be playing a rare Irish date, I didn't hesitate, not even for a second.If they're shit, I told myself, at least I can say I've seen them.
Irish public transport being the unreliable farce that it is, we arrive a little late to The Venue Formerly Known AsThe Point, just in time to catch Swedish retro rock luvvies Graveyard tearing through 'The Siren'.Grabbing a quick(expensive) pint, quickly perusing some(even more expensive) merch and quickly walking away when we see how much we'd be paying for it, we wander back over to catch the latter half of Graveyards's set.And it's mostly good stuff, the band acquitting themselves well, in particular drummer Axel Sjoberg, who channels the spirit of John Bonham so convincingly you have to wonder did Bonzo drop a couple of illicit love children on a long forgotten Swedish tour.The band as a whole are slick, never really blowing you away but impressing all the same with some solid musicianship and some well crafted, proggy blues rock songs.Usually touted as the best thing since sliced Sabbath by stoner rock fan boys,Graveyard don't quite live up to the hype, and they don't quite nail the retro-rock vibe as well as, say, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats, but they appear to win a few fans tonight all the same,and one wonders how they'd fare on a smaller stage and as headliners.Their light show is also, and I'm not being sarcastic, pretty awesome. . . .well I liked it.
And so on to the main event.And to be brutally honest, at least to start, Soundgarden kinda suck.Or at least the sound does.Combine the fact that the first two or three songs are all but unlistenable, and the bulk of the crowd are more interested in filming Cornell on their iPhones,and it's quite possibly the most underwhelming,flat start to a gig I've ever witnessed.A little voice, small but getting louder as things progress, keeps muttering "Please don't let this be shit, please" in the back of my mind. But things soon pick up.Cornell greets the crowd after the band have run through their first couple of numbers, and then introduces the next song:'Flower',the very first song off their first full length, 'Ultramega Ok'.And all of a sudden, every thing's right with the world.The sound sorts itself out, the crowd wake up(a little, let's be honest, no one was expecting circle pits) and for the following ninety or so minutes,Soundgarden proceed to rock the fuck out.
Ok, so the set isn't perfect.There's a little too much of 'King Animal', almost nothing from 'Louder Than Love' , not much more of 'Badmotorfinger' save 'Outshined' and a feral 'Rusty Cage', and the band seem to lack much chemistry or energy on stage(save of course, drumming demi-god Matt Cameron).But when the set is stuffed full of songs like 'Spoonman', 'My Wave', and a rare live outing of 'Limo Wreck', one tends to forgive a band an uneven set very quickly.Highlights include a thunderous 'Mailman', the deft complexity of choice 'King . . .' cut 'Non State Actor', and perhaps best of all, a final, crowd slaying stomp through 'Beyond The Wheel', bookended by a sickening wall of noise, Kim Thayil and Ben Sheperd standing backs to the crowd, lost in the primeval,perfect howl of a wall of amps feeding back.
All in all, it's not a perfect show by any means, but neither is it a cash in tour or a sorry attempt to reclaim past glories.Soundgarden tonight are loud , in your face and at times ludicrously brilliant.Cornell is charming, self effacing, even funny at times, and while he no longer possesses the god-like howl and imperious range of old, he's still in fine voice.The real stars though are guitarist Kim Thayil and drummer Matt Cameron, the latter anchoring the band superbly and playing out of his skin, the former proving to all and sundry why he's still the thinking man's guitar idol,his combination of bizarre chorus-heavy guitar tones,oddball tunings and monolithic riffing still instantly recognisable.
Six quid for a pint is taking the piss though.
Stephen O' Connor, Born Again Nihilist