Wednesday 22 November 2017

rock

Ed Power

Ed Power

soundgarden

the o2, dublin

The George Harrison of grunge bands, Soundgarden were always overshadowed by contemporaries Nirvana and Pearl Jam, no matter that their moments of glory – hit singles 'Spoonman' and 'Black Hole Sun', especially –are, fans would argue, the equal of anything their spiritual siblings ever put out.

Purists, of course, continue to quibble whether the shaggy Seattleites should be considered grunge in the first place. The urge to vent a deep seated angst always appeared to take a backseat to their protean desire to shake their manes and waggle their crotches, an outlook which helps shift records but doesn't do a great deal for your legacy.

With their monster truck riff and sludgy tempos, runs this school of thought, the quartet in fact hark back to the seventies heyday of stadium friendly proto-metal.

Judging by the number of mullet sporting middle age men in black t-shirts attending this reunion show, the theory that Soundgarden are a traditional heavy rock affair is not without validity. The idea of anyone proffering the 'devil's sign' salute at, for instance, a Pearl Jam concert would feel absurd and heretical – three tunes in at Soundgarden, and the downstairs standing area is already rippling with putative Lucifer worshippers.

Inevitably, the group, reunited in 2010 after a 13 year schism and have a new album to promote, though they seem as wary of the latter-day tunes as their audience (King Animal received lukewarm notices and barely scraped the top 15 here). Indeed, for four outwardly surly men in their 40s, Soundgarden are curiously eager to please: a grind-house stomper with a soda pop chorus, 'Spoonman' is wheeled out early on; in response to a request from the floor, they perform diehard favourite 'Limo Wreck' for the first time in a decade-and-a-half.

Singer Chris Cornell is a hulking, charismatic figure who revels in the spotlight to a degree many of his early 90s peers would have considered undignified. He even embarks on what appears to be an impromptu tirade against mooted American intervention in Syria, a rant to which the 10,000 or so in attendance appear unsure how to respond.

Then again, Soundgarden's greatest strength was always their willingness to venture where other grunge rockers didn't dare. Two decades on, they remain cheerfully shameless, milking the acclaim on an epic 'Ty Cobb'. Not nearly damaged or tortured enough to merit a place on the pedestal alongside their Seattle peers, they are probably doomed to remain underrated . Nonetheless this is a comeback gig to remember.

Irish Independent

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