Volume: Soundgarden/Mastodon – Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie, TX 10/26/2011

No matter what my position or stance has been on Soundgarden for the past 15 years, I cannot tell a lie: I really wanted to see this show. It could be that I am a massive Mastodon fan. It could be that it was a tremendous double bill for anyone who loves rock. Or it could be that I’ve been a Soundgarden fan, and vocal detractor for the past 22 years.

I will go with the latter. I first heard Soundgarden in the back of a buddy’s Z-28 in a Sonic parking lot during a Defensive Driving lunch break. Never had I heard so many uses of the word “f*ck”. Gratuitous usage. It was the greatest thing I had ever heard. Wow, how did they get away with that, I pondered. But they did. I was sold all the way until their 1994 album, Superunknown was released. Total bummer. I was not thrilled with this at all, and wasn’t quiet about it. It certainly didn’t feel like the Soundgarden of just a couple of years earlier with 1991’s BadMotorFinger, it felt too constrained, too tame. I have recently listened to Superunknown, and while I enjoyed it more, I still liked the next record, 1996’s Down On The Upside better. Superunknown just didn’t click with me, at all. And I had hoped seeing the tour would change that feeling. It didn’t. With a Liquor In The Front era Reverend Horton Heat as support, they were going to have to be on their game. And they weren’t. It’s still one of the most lifeless, limp performances I’ve seen a band put on. It truly made an impact, and I vowed never to see them again.

Fortunately, vows at 24 don’t necessarily mean much at 41, and eagerly jumped at the chance when a ticket fell in my lap last evening. Mastodon and Soundgarden? Yes. Thank you. Regardless of how I felt about Soundgarden live, I would have been disappointed sitting at home, knowing this show was happening.

Earlier this year, Soundgarden released Live On I-5, a collection of tracks recorded along the East Coast during their final tour in ’96. I felt this was a true testament to how wildly inconsistent they were as a live act, and through the first 3-4 songs they were proving me right. Opening with one of my top 5 favorite of their songs, “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” into “Spoonman” then to possibly their crowning moment, “Gun”, what they were lacking in quality was made up for with song selection. As they hit the fourth song, the MTV banned “Jesus Christ Pose”, something happened, transforming them into a surprisingly cohesive juggernaut that would sustain through the remainder of the set. Touching on all eras of their career, the crowd was most responsive to the latter material from Down On The Upside (“Burden In My Hand”, “Blow Up the Outside World”) while the majority of the set was culled from Superunknown (“Black Hole Sun”, “Fell On Black Days”, “4th of July”, “Superunknown”), and BadMotorFinger (“Outshined”, “Slaves And Bulldozers”, “Rusty Cage”) long with earlier surprises (“Ugly Truth” “Beyond the Wheel”).

The main reason I wanted to go was to see opener Mastodon. Touring for their 5th album, The Hunter, their strong 10 song set was comprised mostly from their latest release (“Blasteroid”, “Black Tongue”, “Curl Of The Burl”), with a couple of older tracks sprinkled in (“Crack The Skye”, “Crystal Skull”) before closing with a curdling version of “Blood and Thunder”. This was the 6th time I’ve seen Mastodon, and they deliver every time. Do NOT judge this band through TV performances or live video. If you are you sorely miss out.

To end, Soundgarden proved me wrong tonight. I fully expected the band I saw back in the 90’s with their inconsistent performances. That is not what I got  last night. I stand corrected, I stand corrected.

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~ by thesynaptic on October 27, 2011.

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