Soundgarden @ Vic Theatre, Chicago 8/5/10

“Man it’s been awhile since we played and I forgot…” Yes, Chris Cornell? How good it feels to be a part of a music project that isn’t a punchline? How much people still respect and admire the craft that shaped your band’s output, hence the direction of an entire genre? “…how much pot you guys smoke, damn!” Haa, yes OK. FAIR ENOUGH. Lots of pot smoke in the air last night at the Vic, and also lots of gray goatees and incredible excerpts of bathroom line bro-talk (“…heard Vedder was the Cubs game yesterday”; “…came out in ’91, no wait ’92…”; “…Temple Of The Dog.”): if you wanted a snapshot of what the year 1992 looks like in 2010, this room was your Google Image Search. This also was your room if you ever gave a shit about Soundgarden, like even a little, or rabidly even moreso. At this their second show in 12+ years, every point in the discography, from Ultramega OK (“Flower”) and Louder Than Love (“Gun,” “Ugly Truth,” “Get On The Snake”) to the three following, best known albums were tapped; the detuned dystopian creeper “4th Of July” received what was possibly, according to Chris, its live debut. The hits — and if you grew up with MTV in the ’90s, to you there are many — were all there, screamed along: “Outshined” (major), “Fell On Black Days,” “Rusty Cage,” ‘Spoonman,” “Let Me Drown,” “Burden In My Hand” etc. — 22 songs, nothing left to ask for at the end. Even “Head Down” made the cut.

Adorably, Chris Cornell came out dressed in period piece, a reconstituted Jesus Christ pose, all long locks, tee, shin-cut pants. (For tonight let’s just agree to forget the Armani button-ups and greased coif of his last Timbaland-loving decade, or try really hard to pretend it never happened.) Despite a decade-plus detour into ill-advised adult-contempo, the guy’s milk-curdling scream, glass shattering wail, it still stands as one of the era’s most distinctive, and more importantly to last night, still stands, period. Kim Thayil, grunge’s most adept reconciler of Tony Iommi’s darkened sludge riffs with a glaze of somehow-compelling wah wankery, donned a fedora and ponytail and typically liquid fingers. Ben Shepherd, slightly beefed up, still limber on bass, loving the moments his “Head Down” and “Like Suicide” reigned. Matt Cameron, a ’90s survivor and drum hero, looking exactly as you remember from every night on Pearl Jam tour. During “Face Pollution”‘s frightening stops, time shifts, arthritis-defying workouts, any versatility questions were asked and answered; the headbangs on stage weren’t quite as frenzied, but that was about all there was separating this band from what they were an epoch ago. Ironically it was “Black Hole Sun,” one of their easiest to recreate, that saw a moment of clumsiness; otherwise, you’d never suspect these were dudes pushing 50. It’s hard to say what the crowd split for Soundgarden vs. Arcade Fire will be at the 8PM hour at Lollapalooza on Sunday. Based on what we saw on Vevo and at the Vic last night, nobody’s going home disappointed.

Scott and I shot some video, like really cool dudes do when they go to concerts [I was gonna crowdsurf, but “ow my back” -Ed.]. They’re here for you, followed by the setlist.



“Pretty Noose”

01 “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”
02 “Spoonman”
03 “Gun”
04 “Rusty Cage”
05 “Let Me Drown”
06 “Jesus Christ Pose”
07 “Flower”
08 “Outshined”
09 “Fell On Black Days”
10 “Ugly Truth”
11 “Get On The Snake”
12 “Burden In My Hand”
13 “Pretty Noose”
14 “Head Down”
15 “Face Pollution”
16 “Superunknown”
17 “Black Hole Sun”
18 “Mailman”
19 “Slaves & Bulldozers”

20 “4th Of July”
21 “Blow Up The Outside World”
22 “Like Suicide”

[Photo by Erika Goldring,]

We’ll be at Lolla all weekend. Get live updates via @stereogum, @scottgum, and @amritsingh, unless weak AT&T prevents us from Tweeting, which is entirely possible (inevitable).