Is SOUNDGARDEN really as great as they're made out to be? The answer can be heard approximately 57 seconds into "Outshined," but it took a few blasts of Superunknown and Badmotorfinger this weekend to make me forgive their listless set at the Prudential Center.
Only four people in the nearly sold-out arena didn't seem thrilled by the prospect of seeing Soundgarden back together, and unfortunately all four of them were on stage for two hours. A nearly perfect setlist couldn't overcome the lack of chemistry that the the "band" exhibited. KIM THAYIL, formerly one of the most ferocious guitarists in mainstream rock, competently played every song without any of the explosiveness that distinguished their records, and bruisers like "My Wave," "Jesus Christ Pose" and even "Face Pollution" felt like they'd been defanged and declawed. It's impossible to think of any tune that CHRIS CORNELL can't carry, and he nailed every note of every song, but he played the day-job rock star all night, urging us to "Make some noise" and "Say 'aaaayyyyy-o,'" or making too many jokes about the indiscreet potheads on the floor. Despite all his misguided solo records, Cornell shouldn't be playing county fairs, and it's sad to watch him perform like someone who does.
Only MATT CAMERON went beyond the call of duty, maintaining his place as the band's backbone while injecting more complicated rhythms into his best-known fills. As PEARL JAM's drummer for over ten years now, he's clearly aware that some middle-aged dads are still capable of rocking an arena into a frenzy. Still, nothing he did could inspire his old bandmates to give us the kind of show that their music deserves.
Pomp-metal squealers COHEED AND CAMBRIA opened, wasting drummer CHRIS PENNIE's talent with a tedious set of metal-by-numbers. Maybe Cornell & the gang will be more invigorated when they're following up QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE or THE MARS VOLTA.