Soundgarden @ Festival Hall, Melbourne (Tue 24 Feb 2015)
You know those defining moments in your life when you injure yourself, and things are never quite the same? You young people reading this probably won’t relate because you’re made of rubber and teflon, but to those older folks…. maybe it was the time you slipped off the paving while cleaning the pool and ripped all the ligaments in your ankle. Sure, it was close to 15 years ago, but that ankle’s never been the same. Or the time you slipped down a small flight of stairs and completely obliterated your ACL and ended up with a knee reconstruction. Again, over a decade ago, but that knee still twinges when the angle of your footfall isn’t quite on point. That moment will always be in the back of your mind with a small wish, that maybe you’d done things differently that day.
Let it be known that on the evening of 24 February 2015, Kim Thayil broke my ears. My ears and I have been through some tough times together. I started playing drums when I was 9 years old – I’m now 40. For more than 2/3 of that time, I played them ‘professionally’, meaning loudly and amplified. I’ve been to more gigs than I can count, many of them documented on this very website. My ears are probably more worn out than they should be for my age, but as I sit here in my kitchen on the morning of August 12, more than 6 months after that Soundgarden show, I know my ears wouldn’t be ringing nearly as badly (if at all), if only I’d worn earplugs that night.
C’est la vie.
It’s been almost 20 years since I last saw Soundgarden. That was in 1997, and turned out to be one of their last shows before their break-up (I saw them Jan 22 and Feb 9 was to be their last show).
The crowd was like a meeting of old friends, although no-one knew each other. In 1997, we’d all somehow scrounged the money for the ticket and managed to sneak out of the house to see Soundgarden. Twenty years later I’m sure the story is much the same for many here, although there’s a lot less flannelette in the audience.
Tonight’s gig was all killer, no filler. From Outshined surprising slot in 3rd place, to the faves I’d honestly forgotten about (Room A Thousand Years Wide) to the complete surprise of Birth Ritual- a song I never thought I’d ever hear live.
Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron all looked like slightly older versions of the band I’d seen two decades ago in Brisbane. And looked happy as hell to be there. Ben Shepherd however looked reasonably unimpressed at having ended up on a stage in Melbourne. That might just be his shtick though, as he certainly comes across as a nice and happy guy in interviews.
As to be expected, the band were as tight as my old black jeans, and were pitch perfect all the way through. The closer of a super extended version of Slaves and Bulldozers is what killed my ears. A guitar solo that was as loud as it was long, followed by the good ol’ 90’s standard of leaving a guitar leaning on an amp to wildly feedback until a roadie comes out to switch it off. Entirely enjoyable- I just wish I’d brought my earplugs (and maybe a zimmer frame).
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