02 Manchester Apollo
Friday 13th September 2013
Nineties Seattle giants Soundgarden roll into Manchester tonight for what turns out to be a storming and unforgettable performance, proving that a band once at the forefront of a genre some thought dead long ago are more relevant and on form than ever.
But firstly, Swedish rockers Graveyard take to the stage, bringing their brand of unapologetic, old school hard rock to the room. In a concise, thirty minutes set, they manage to tear through seven songs, including songs from all three of their releases to date, finishing on a rousing performance of brooding epic ‘The Siren’, from the acclaimed Hisingen Blues album
Tonight, Graveyard aren’t without slight hiccups, with the smallest of timing issues coming into play on the opening of ‘Ain’t Fit to Live Here’, but this doesn’t knock them too much. Presented before the room is a band not one bit sorry for the passion and sincerity for the kind of music they play. With driving riffs, raspy vocals, and dark themes varying from heartbreak to demons, the brand of bluesy hard rock they offer is not unfamiliar. But, while they’re not re-inventing the wheel (nor are they trying), what they do, they are very good at.
As the clock ticks past Nine, Soundgarden are a minute late, and the room is packed to bursting point with people aching to see them. All is forgiven as they appear before the room to deafening cheers, opening on ‘Let Me Drown’, before playing what becomes a stellar, jaw-droppingly good set.
Chris Cornell looks every inch the star, and sounds even greater. Managing vocals that would make the best of singers weep with little effort, it’s easy to see why people still flock in mass numbers to see these guys live. Of course Soundgarden’s strength has always been the talent of each member collectively, and tonight every one of them throws everything into it. Guitar-wielding Kim Thayil gives little away in his face, but it’s easy to see he’s well into the show, never dropping a note, while Matt Cameron on drums and Ben Shepard on bass drive the momentum on, filling out the sound to huge proportions and ensuring everyone in the room keeps moving.
The set list is a strong one, with plenty of songs for the die-hard fans, and enough to keep the newcomers happy. ‘Spoonman’ has the room fully warmed up, and ‘The Day I Tried To Live’ is faultless. Throwing in a couple of songs from the latest album King Animal, does little to slow down the energy, with many being just as happy to hear them as they would more of the older hits.
As I take a break upstairs to interview tonight’s support band, I realise I’m missing two of the biggest hits; ‘Outshined’ and Nineties music channel favourite ‘Black Hole Sun’. I’m unable to ignore the screams of happiness at that opening riff, and the sound of the few thousand people below, united in a dizzy, drunk chorus.
I return to ‘Fell on Black Days’, as they keep the energy high, and the quality higher. Tonight, they are really, really killing it and everyone in the room has the feeling they’re watching something special.
Finishing on a high octane rendition of ‘Rusty Cage’, Chris and co take a quick breather, before returning for a three song encore, finishing with ‘Beyond The Wheel’, which is enough to make the hairs on the back of the neck of every person in the room stand straight up.
As Chris’s voice cuts straight through the venue with force and melody, threatening to tear the roof off, it’s clear that Soundgarden has plenty of performance life in them yet.
All words by Kat Ball. This is Kat’s first article for Louder Than War.