Soundgarden: Live on Letterman
The Ed Sullivan Theater, New York, NY
November 12, 2012
Concert Review: Soundgarden at Ed Sullivan Theater
From the likes of Kiss to Pearl Jam, The Killers to The Gaslight Anthem, the Live on Letterman series has played host to a who’s who of names on The Ed Sullivan Theater’s historic marquee. Monday evening, the site of The Late Show with David Letterman was once again transformed to a live concert venue with grunge pioneers Soundgarden taking center stage for an hour long live show, streamed live on the internet via webcast. The intimate setting inside the legendary venue coupled with the rock music royalty cutting their chops in front of just a few hundred lucky guests made for a performance experience like none other.
On the heels of the band’s first new album release in 16 years (“King Animal” drops today), the band further revved up an already fiery audience as immediately as they were introduced. Casually strolling down the communal aisle, each member of the four piece took some time to high-five excited onlookers, before taking their respective positions on stage. Within the confines of a relatively sterile television studio, Soundgarden immediately made David Letterman’s stage their own with a blistering ten song set based primarily around the new album. Opening tracks “Worse Dreams” and “By Crooked Steps” were revelations that despite the distance between new releases, the band’s new material fits comfortably in with the remainder of their legendary catalog. But longtime fans had to sit back and smile when Soundgarden then ripped out “Incessant Mace” and “Beyond the Wheel” from 1988’s debut album “Ultramega OK,” both of which absolutely rocked the house.
The band’s typically plodding style seemed more bluesy on this night, from an iconic rock quartet that’s certainly aged some in appearance but not in their sludgy cohesion on stage. To the surprise of nobody, the haunting vocals of frontman Chris Cornell in a live setting are truly worth going out of your way to experience, as few things on this planet are as silky smooth or as consistent, as he seamlessly alternates between notes and octaves. And even as he reaches his late 40’s, the singer continues to simply ooze rock and roll, taking the stage with his straggly, curly grunge hair bouncing atop his plain white t-shirt and skinny black jeans. To watch him do his thing is to remember the first time you realized how much you loved music and why we place the talents of musicianship on an untouchable pedestal.
With seven of the ten tracks straight from “King Animal,” the highlight for this writer was the throwback to 1994’s “Superunknown,” the band’s breakthrough album and “Fell on Black Days” was a raucous ride back in time as even the audience’s most respectful members had a hard time holding back from belting the words out right alongside the singer himself. For a brief moment in time on Monday night, we stopped wondering what went wrong to force this talented band to a decade plus hiatus and instead allowed ourselves to revel in the fact that they’ve found each other again. Whether this is the start of a renaissance for Soundgarden remains to be seen, but with a tight new album and a collection of bandmates that look genuinely happy to be performing alongside each other again, we were just happy to have been a part of their history.
Soundgarden- Live at The Ed Sullivan Theater, New York, NY
November 12th, 2012
1. Worse Dreams
2. By Crooked Steps
3. Incessant Mace
4. Beyond the Wheel
6. A Thousand Days Before
7. Eyelid’s Mouth
8. Non-State Actor
9. Fell on Black Days
- Jane Van Arsdale