Show Review & Photos: Soundgarden @ the Paramount

Soundgarden @ the Paramount Theatre, 2/8
Review by Chris Senn
Photos by Jimmy Lovaas, John Rudolph & Rani Weatherby

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Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell – photo by Jimmy Lovaas

Usually when a band that was huge in the ’80s and ’90s says they’re “reuniting” it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Most times the “reunion” is missing a couple key band members and more often than not it’s not a reunion that produces new material. The reunited band usually tours on a greatest hits package or something like that before fading away once again. Every once in a while an actual legitimate reunion comes along that bucks the trend of these one-off tours or shameless cash-grabs. Sometimes a band may actually reunite because they love the music. They love performing for the fans and they love playing music. Soundgarden is the latter band, and judging by their performance at the Paramount, you’d never know that they’ve been away.

When Soundgarden abruptly and unexpectedly broke up, went on hiatus – whatever you want to call it in 1997 – it tore a big hole in the Seattle music scene. At the point they disbanded, they were at the top of their game, and it seemed like they had so much still to offer. For the next thirteen years that hole in the music scene remained. Of course Chris Cornell did his solo thing and joined Audioslave. Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam. He’s undeniably one of the best drummers in modern rock music. But Soundgarden was still missing.

After tons of will they won’t or won’t they interviews and rumors, Soundgarden reunited in 2010, playing their first live show exclusively for friends and fan club members under the anagram Nudedragons at the Showbox Market in April of 2010. In 2011 they played at the Gorge. It wasn’t until February 7th and 8th, 2013 that Soundgarden finally returned to Seattle to play their first proper hometown shows since 1996.

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Soundgarden – photos by Jimmy Lovaas

A band like Soundgarden playing a venue as small and intimate as the Paramount, can you believe that? This concert was anything but part of a sad sack money grab reunion that I described above. Soundgarden: Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron are in peak form, and they had a new album to tour behind as well. King Animal is a Soundgarden album through and through. Their songwriting and sonic evolution picked up right where they left off with Down on the Upside. The new songs fit seamlessly into a setlist alongside the old. Soundgarden can teach other bands a thing or two about putting on a hometown show, especially one that’s been a long time coming. Soundgarden did it right, with no openers to suffer through. Best thing about this was that it allowed Soundgarden to play – for a very long time.

The band took the stage around 8:30 PM or so. The setlist was a perfect mix of old and new, the past, present and future of Soundgarden. No “Spoonman” or “Outshined” to be found, but nearly everything else. They started with the old stuff, breaking out the sludgy waltz of “Incessant Mace;” Thayil’s face melting guitar licks made their first prominent appearance on “Big Dumb Sex,” and they kicked the energy up with “Get on the Snake.”

There were so many highlights I don’t really know where to start, so let’s start with “Jesus Christ Pose.” Cornell’s voice doesn’t age. With his hands reaching out, nailed to an invisible cross, Cornell belted out the lyrics, sounding just as powerfully vocally in 2013 as he did in 1991. My first Soundgarden album was Down on the Upside, so one of the absolute highlights for me was when they broke out “Pretty Noose” and “Burden in My Hand” back-to-back. They also played “Blow Up the Outside World” and album cut “Zero Chance,” which I always thought was one of their best songs and most underrated tracks.

The new stuff shone. King Animal was one of the best rock albums of 2012 and it shows in the strength of the material. “Been Away Too Long” served as a nod to the last thirteen Soundgarden-less years, as well as their return to Seattle. The only thing that would have made “By Crooked Steps” better was if they had the hilarious, Dave Grohl directed video featuring the “Sons of Soundgarden” Segway gang playing on the backdrop. Cameron brought his son Ray out on stage – in what is undeniably the coolest take your kid to work day ever – to play guitar on “Eyelid’s Mouth.”

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Soundgarden – photos by Jimmy Lovaas

I’m pretty sure the audience barely survived the apocalyptic thunder of “Blood on the Valley Floor.” Ben Shepherd’s brutal bass lines shook the crowd to its core. Their last song of the main set I would like to rename “Rusty Cage on Speed.” It was almost like they put a 33 rpm vinyl on 78 rpm and let it go. It was four minutes of bottled up, pressurized energy that escaped at full blast.

They came back for the encore with even more energy, which they expended at once, cranking out a high-octane performance of “Ty Cobb.” They closed out with “Black Hole Sun” and the slow burn of “Slaves and Bulldozers.”

Amazing, amazing show. Soundgarden are in their prime and I don’t think they’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Chris, Kim, Ben and Matt. . . thank you.

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Soundgarden – photos by Jimmy Lovaas

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Soundgarden – photos by John Rudolph

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Soundgarden – photos by Rani Weatherby

Setlist:

1. Incessant Mace
2. Big Dumb Sex
3. Get on the Snake
4. Hunted Down
5. Jesus Christ Pose
6. Let Me Drown
7. Room A Thousand Years Wide
8. By Crooked Steps
9. Attrition
10. Pretty Noose
11. Burden in My Hand
12. Been Away Too Long
13. Worse Dreams
14. The Day I Tried to Live
15. Ugly Truth
16. Eyelid’s Mouth
17. Non-State Actor
18. Drawing Flies
19. Blow Up the Outside World
20. Fell on Black Days
21. Zero Chance
22. Blood on the Valley Floor
23. Superunknown
24. Rusty Cage

Encore:

25. Ty Cobb
26. Black Hole Sun
27. Slaves and Bulldozers

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One thought on “Show Review & Photos: Soundgarden @ the Paramount

  1. Jimmy,

    Nice photos. You did really well as the lighting was quite dark a lot of the time. You really captured the mood.

    John

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