Last night’s Soundgarden show at the Wiltern was the third time I’ve seen the band. The first time I saw them, in July 2011 at the Forum, was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Hard to top a night where I got to mosh with Dave Grohl and meet Jerry Cantrell. The second show I attended in November 2012 at the Fonda Theater was enjoyable, but did not match the unforgettable experience of the Forum show. Last night’s show was an improvement over the Fonda show, you can tell the band have tightened up since.
The show kicked off with “Nothing to Say,” which excited me since that’s one of Soundgarden’s most underrated songs to me. Cornell’s vocals were rough here but he warmed up by 3-4 songs in and turned in some great performances throughout the night. The most active the band were on stage all night was probably during “Been Away Too Long.” That song to me is mediocre when it comes to the studio version but it comes off so much better live. Cornell’s vocals sound more natural rather than strained and forced like they do at times in the studio version. Ben Shepherd moved like crazy during “Attrition” as well.
The highlights of the night were Ty Cobb, By Crooked Steps, The Day I Tried To Live, Get On The Snake, Jesus Christ Pose, Rusty Cage, and show closer Beyond the Wheel. Cornell’s vocals on “Beyond the Wheel” were absolutely perfect, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen him give live. “Ty Cobb” was also quite inspired, Cornell encouraged the crowd to yell “fuck you all.” Cornell’s other banter throughout the show included mentioning that usually when Soundgarden used to perform in LA it would be for a music industry crowd, but now there isn’t a music industry.
The first time I saw the band perform “Rowing” in November there were backing tracks for the chorus, Cornell and the band didn’t hide it back then but I still thought it came off as lame to have a backing track playing during a live performance. For the performance of Rowing at the Wiltern last night though, there was no backing vocal track which made me happy. Matt Cameron’s son came out to play guitar on “Eyelid’s Mouth.” Cornell mentioned that he is a shitty guitar player himself, so he was happy to have Cameron’s son play guitar on the song instead of him. At the end of the song Cornell said “back to shitty guitar playing.”
“Blow Up The Outside World” just didn’t sound right, I’ve seen them play it great before but it just sounded off. “Worse Dreams” should be cut from the setlist, the verses are not good and don’t hold up to the chorus.
The show lasted 2 hours and 24 songs. On any other night I would have been thrilled, but last night’s show in LA had 28 songs as have many shows on the tour. Also the actual setlist had “New Damage” and “Blind Dogs” listed on the encore but they didn’t play them, so that was a big of a let down. So overall a fun inspired show, but it didn’t match the visceral experience of the Forum show in July 2011. On a random note, since I had a seat this time, I really got to appreciate Matt Cameron’s drumming. He is the best drummer currently in a major rock band (well, two major rock bands).