Soundgarden rolled back the years and display an intensity often lacking in the plethora of reunion tours, Getintothis’ Joseph Viney partied like it’s 1989.
It’s easy to become suspicious of all these reunion tours.
Thanks to the internet not many drawers in the file cabinet of musical history remain locked. Now anybody can conjure up a rare live video from a gig performed in front of three owls and their perplexed owner thanks to YouTube and the like.
This has the propensity to clog things up a bit. Now any music magazine or weekend tabloid (“Is there a difference?!” we hear you cry) is replete with ads for a host of nostalgia packages and bastardised versions of classic groups.
Why, you too can see the Four Tops with none of their original members doing karaoke for about £40. Exciting, no?
It’s all very tedious and a little embarrassing, but the difference between these get-moderate-income-quick merchants and groups like Soundgarden is that in the latter’s case, the transition from well-to-do rock band to bowed returning performers is the seamless emergence of quality.
Indeed, it’s addressed on the opening track (and performed early on tonight) of 2012’s King Animal, Been Away Too Long. They know they deserve to be back, and a rowdy, warm and packed Manchester Apollo knows it too.
Where Soundgarden differed from their grunge contemporaries lies in the fact that:
a) They were never strictly grunge.
b) They weren’t as one-dimensional as other bands around them.
It was their metal stylings, perpetual momentum and Chris Cornell’s distinctively powerful voice that set them apart, and as soon as they pull Spoonman out of the hat as their second number, its thudding rhythm weaving around its enigmatic lyrics, it makes you wonder how we managed without them for so long.
Soundgarden at Manchester Apollo
Soundgarden performed a feat not many others are capable of: the flawless show.
There was plenty to satisfy the hit-monkeys (Black Hole Sun, Fell on Black Days, the tremendous Rusty Cage), the more avowed fans (Rhinosaur, Pretty Noose, Outshined) and those who crave musical legitimacy from new material (Non-State Actor, By Crooked Steps, Been Away Too Long).
Aesthetically not much has changed.
Cornell is still the handsome, curly-haired frontman with energy to burn. Guitarist Kim Thayil, tonight looking like the love child of Rick Rubin and a scarecrow, still brings a sense of foreboding with strong, silent presence.
Ben Shepherd on bass looks rough and ready, pacing the stage like a caged animal and Matt Cameron on drums (for both Soundgarden *and* Pearl Jam! How good must his life be at times?) keeps everything in check from behind his kit.
Having suffered the usual fate of those who spend too much time together, Soundgarden were never particularly recognised for their outward displays of camaraderie and barely a glance or word is exchanged between the four for long periods.
But it’s all business though. Soundgarden have proved time and again throughout their career that they are professionals and what they do, they do it right. Maybe they just don’t need to talk, such is musical link between them.
Regardless, it all works anyway. It remains to be seen how much further they plan to go, but on tonight’s evidence, there’s plenty more life in the old dogs yet.
Soundgarden at Manchester Apollo
The night’s support came from Swedish rockers Graveyard.
Positing themselves as more of a good-time RnR throwback band, they came highly recommended and looked determined from the off to get the crowd onside.
Something didn’t particularly sit right however. The sound felt damp and muted, seeming to stop halfway up the standing area as if it had fallen victim to some malicious sound blocker.
Unfortunately for Graveyard, it meant that their chugging sounds and wild solos lost a good deal of the impact they were created to have.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Sakura.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Nirvana: In Utero reissue – 20 years of radio unfriendly unit shifters.
Smashing Pumpkins: Manchester Academy
Top 10: Nirvana
Liverpool’s gig calendar 2013: Guide to essential gigs not to miss the rest of this year