I would have paid a lot of money to see Soundgarden at Lollapalooza. Lots of money. Superunknown is firmly ensconced in my top five albums of all-time list. Chris Cornell, in this WBRU-weaned music critic's opinion, had the best voice of any rock singer I've ever heard.
So it was with great interest that I read reports from the band's reunion show at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Of course I was too lazy and cheap to even consider flying out there to see them and when they were still together and touring, I was but a lost little kid who kinda liked classical music and had no interest in "grunge."
The next best thing? Watch clips on YouTube. Like Bill Belichick I've been secretly eying videotape the past few nights to construct a scouting report on one of the best bands of the 1990s. I'll probably never see them live, so this would be the next best thing.
And it's tough to say this ... the guys disappointed me. I understand I can't put too much stock in crappy YouTube clips of a rock concert, but Chris Cornell looked to be going through the motions. Check out this clip of Black Hole Sun. Surely he's not going to prance around stage like Lady Gaga or even Billy Joe Armstrong. That's not his style. And of course most of Soundgarden's songs are about sunny topics like drug abuse, depression, mania and suicide, so he won't be waving his hands in the air like there aren't any repercussions.
It's the way he sung it, like he was racing through the lyrics. Cornell is in his mid-40s. It's going to be tough to bring the same passion to his songs, the same passion I heard in those albums. And just like an quarterback's arm or a sprinter's legs, talents fade over time, like a singer's voice. I heard Cornell live when I saw Audioslave and his voice was scratchy. I've seen Eddie Vedder four times live and he's not anywhere near his Ten or Vs. level.
Good ol' Eddie was never bored, though.
All that KISS BS with fireworks and facepaint is just a cover for bad music. Great bands don't need that fluff and I don't expect it from Soundgarden. Just play the songs hard and with passion. Perhaps I'm just being ornery today. Perhaps work has finally turned me into the bitter old man I'm destined to become. They just didn't sound great.
All this being said, I would have lost my mind when the first chords to Black Hole Sun undulated through Grant Park. And I would have loved the show, just because I actually saw Soundgarden perform live. YouTube just can't do it justice. Even Chris Cornell at 50 percent is better than most.