It’s been a long time in the making, but there is finally a goddamn Live Soundgarden album. If you read the reviews, you might find some hater reviewers who aren’t too fond of the band giving it an ok review. Since I’m a fan, this is a review for fans. So if you’re a hater, take it elsewhere.
If you ask me, the track listing is interesting, varied and showcases some definite high points. The only thing that could have some sort of question mark regarding Soundgarden live is Chris Cornell’s voice, and to be honest, that’s the only thing I could sort of complain. As I mentioned to a friend of mine, it’s not that Cornell sings songs in a greater range than Robert Plant, it’s that song after song in the Soundgarden catalogue are punishing on anyone’s vocals. Let me drown is a particular track where your own throat might hurt just from listening to Chris shredding his chords. But occasional vocal blips aside, this is a great collection of live tracks, so let’s look at Live on the I-5 track by track.
1. Spoonman: Hell of a start to a live album and shows that when Soundgarden delivers, they REALLY deliver. The band is beyond punched and you feel the riffs rip at you. Kim Thayill is smoking on this opener.
2. Searching with my good eye closed: Definitely one of the highlights of the album with Matt Cameron showing that this is his band. Add to this the guitar led vocal riff at about the 2:22 mark which then leads into all hell breaking loose on the rhythm section.
3. Let me Drown: One of those songs that just hurt to listen to not because it’s bad, but because Chris Cornell is on the verge of losing his voice on occasion. Again, the band rips the hell out of this one.
4. Head Down: Along with Mailman, this is one of my favorite Superunknown songs. Odd time signature, weird tuning, weird song. It’s a cool song to have them play but not one of those marquee moments in a concert or on the album, which shows that not all in this collection is perfection. Highpoints in the track go to Ben Shepperd and Matt Cameron who give a nice musical breakdown at the 3:15 mark and are a highpoint throughout this track and at the end.
5. Outshined: Hell of a great song live. Period. Sabbath channeled through 90’s alt metal, what’s not to like.
6. Rusty Cage: Dirty, powerful, scary fast songs are a plus for any Soundgarden experience and their rendition of Rusty Cage rocks.
7. Burden in My Hand: One of those songs that has a lot of color in each particular instrument, Burden is a track that translates pretty good live and especially showcases Ben Sheppards talents on the bass.
8. Helter Skelter: Truly a unique version of this Beatles song that leads into one of my favorite random Soundgarden songs.
9. Boot Camp: The segue is flawless and definitely works like a charm on a live stage.
10. Nothing to Say: Sludging guitars drop like sonic lava on your body… that’s a pretty good way to describe this song as Chris Cornell shreds his voice to pieces. Highlights are on the offbeat drumming of maestro Cameron and the 6 string licks of Kim Thayill. Definitely a sound that feels like the true essence of grunge at its best.
11. Slaves and Bulldozers: Another sludgy song which is vocalizingly punishing but very satisfying since you feel the slight desire to break something.
12. Dusty: Dusty is one of those songs that definitely does not sound like a single but was. It’s a good song, odd sound structure, interesting verse and guitar work with some nice improvisation work throughout.
13. Fell on Black Days: Fell on is a song that doesn’t get you pumped but it’s always a nice treat to listen to. It’s more an album song to plug into and really listen to, but it’s probably a great precursor to a gut busting track… and with what comes afterwards in this setlist, that seems an appropriate approximation
14. Search and Destroy: Quite soundgarden like to follow a mellow number like Fell on Black Days with a scorching rendition of Search and Destroy that would make the Stooges proud and a little afraid. Where the stooges were pure raw power, Soundgarden takes this song and spruces it up enough to make it their own without losing the essence and definitely hitting hard. The two covers on this live album truly stand out for being great takes on classics and Search and Destroy does not disappoint. So how to top it?.....
15. Ty Cobb: By playing Ty Cobb… a raw weird, pumped up song that gets your adrenaline rushing at the energy and your head scratching at the great playing. Seriously, few people can be so punk and prog in their approach as these guys.
16. Black Hole Sun: Which obviously means they throw a curveball with a guitar driven rendision of Black Hole Sun… a lovely aperitif or an adieu before ripping the heads off the crowd with one of their best live songs.
17. Jesus Christ Pose: Now that’s the song to end a Soundgarden concert. Thumping drums and bass, screaming guitar, vocals straight through the roof. If there’s no tomorrow and this is the last song they play live, it’s a good choice.
Most bands wish they could have the energy and talent these guys have on a soundcheck on any given performance. That being said, I think it’d be great to see more of this because it’s the first time I’ve listened to full-fledged sound checks. Hell this disc makes me wish I was a roadie.