Live from the Artists Den


UME, 2019

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler


From the sticker on the front of the disc, this is “the most requested Soundgarden concert release of all time!” Well, that might be a misnomer. This sprawling, career-spanning concert originally broadcast on PBS in 2013 as part of their Artists Den concert series is quite the undertaking from a band like this. Getting to hear Cornell again is quite the revelation, because by the second track, “My Wave,” his vocals are shot and it’s clear that his best days are behind him. His vocals are weak and he can’t compete with his previous self. While that’s a damn shame, it sets the stage for the band to sound their best.

Opening the concert, the seven minute “Incessant Mace” is quite the rocker, tearing things down and setting things up for quite the balls to the wall rock show. Apart from the tracks from the then-new King Animal, like “Been Away Too Long,” Cornell’s vocals are a shadow of what they were back in the day. But on “Worse Dreams,” where he’s not screaming the whole song, the vocals sound a bit like they should. It’s as if he was straining too hard to hit notes he couldn’t reach anymore and that resulted in him blowing through songs that might have been better being left out of the setlist.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Luckily, Matt Cameron, Kim Thayil and Ben Shepherd are solid as a rock and bring it like they always have, almost as if they have to make up for Chris’ shortcomings. “Flower” rocks harder than ever and is a personal favorite. Unfortunately, “Spoonman” comes across rushed and weak and that seems to be the overall flow of this disc.

Every time Cornell starts to scream, it’s like nails on a chalkboard: very out of place and kind of sad. The slower tracks from the new disc like the excellent “Bones Of Birds,” “Rowing,” and “Non-State Actor,” are where he really shines and one remembers why he was so great in the first place.

Ditto with a classic like “Fell On Black Days,” where he sounds like he always did and Thayil is just wailing away behind him making the song sound as great as it did on the record. But tracks like “A Thousand Days Before” fall apart and sound bored and tired, from band and Cornell alike. It’s an interesting dichotomy with the band: some of the newer songs sound lifeless while others sound forceful, and lder tracks tend to blur the line between great and just bland. Cornell does come alive on “Rusty Cage,” one of the few bright spots on the second disc that doesn’t sound dry and boring.

The almost eight minute “4th Of July” and nearly seven minute “New Damage” are pleasing but after a while get very tedious. Ditto to “Outshined,” where Cornell seems bored singing it for the thousandth or so time; only when he turns the vocals over to the crowd does the song come alive. If it wasn’t for Matt Cameron and Thayil’s solo, I think “Black Hole Sun” would have faded into the ether without even a whimper. It just sounds down and devoid of life.

Some soloing and feedback close out the disc with “Slaves And Bulldozers,” a song much more powerful on record in my opinion. Amazingly, they insert a bit of Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying” to the song, just like at their last show.

To be honest, this is a decent enough performance but shouldn’t have been released as a full disc. It shows off a bit of how sad they sounded towards the end.

Rating: C

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