Concert review Soundgarden, with Screaming Trees, The Reverend Horton Heat and You Am I, last Saturday at the Seattle Center Memorial Stadium.
Soundgarden, bringing the final stop of its latest touring leg to the Seattle Center Memorial Stadium Saturday, speed shoveled a musical, rhythmic and emotionally brutal, vibrant and violent all-out assault to a like-minded, near-capacity crowd.
From the first notes of "Jesus Christ Pose" to the final group pounding of Matt Cameron's drum kit at the end of "Head Down," the Seattle band maintained a thrash-and-burn intensity.
When lead singer Chris Cornell asked the crowd why it wasn't at Woodstock, it responded by breaking into at least a half dozen mosh and slam pits. It was as if the crowd were pocketed by maelstroms of mayhem, each one closer to the stage a more rapidly whirling whirlpool of humans in hyperdrive.
Cornell, who has been known to triple somersault into such rabid release, wisely favored guitar playing instead. But he managed to reduce a microphone stand into a giant chrome-riding crop, brandishing it with severity, accenting each and every phrase of the menacing "Mailman."
But his guitar was no mere prop. His tandem playing with lead guitarist Kim Thayil was both precise and complementary. Thayil seemed to become more and more enraged and agitated as the show progressed, charging from one side of the stage to the other, finally attacking both his instrument and amplifiers and crushing them in the final moments of the performance.
On stage, onlookers scattered, grabbing the small children who wandered unfettered around the perimeters of the stage as they went. Thayil's playing went almost beyond passionate. He was clearly dealing with demons he couldn't verbalize, letting the sound and volume and destruction speak for him.
Throughout the set, drummer Matt Cameron maintained "Clockwork Orange" time keeping, while bassist Ben Shepherd lurched in every direction at once. He was always musically there, creating a thundering support for Cornell and Thayil's top lines.
The band's set was heavy with songs from the new double-platinum "SUPERUNKNOWN," including the driving funk and rock of the title tune. Other highlights included "Spoonman," ably assisted by Artis the Spoonman, "The Day I Tried To Live," one of the bands moodier pieces, the brooding but oddly beautiful "Fell On Black Days" and "Black Hole Sun," which done live traded its recorded Sgt. Pepper lilt for something a bit more dirge-like and desperate.
Screaming Trees, with vocalist Mark Lanegan looking and sounding very strong at center stage, power punched-out the set that preceded Soundgarden. It was good to hear the band again.
And the Reverend Horton Heat, second in rotation, was blisteringly true to his name. Heat's music is as uplifting as it is down and dirty, and he drove through his set with amphetamine-like abandon, barely taking time to catch his breath, let alone introduce his his rockabilly-fied brand of Texas grunt and twang.
Opening the five-hour long event was the Australian You Am I.