showbox.jpg

Set list and full audio of the show is available now via Blabbermouth .

In 1994, just a few months before frontman Kurt Cobain took

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Savoring the Soundgarden Show

showbox.jpg

Set list and full audio of the show is available now via Blabbermouth.

In 1994, just a few months before frontman Kurt Cobain took his own life, I attended their extremely sold-out show at what was then called the Seattle Center Arena (now saddled with the sponsored prefix of Key Bank). I wasn't supposed to go. Tickets had been sold via lottery and the odds weren't in my favor; I spent all day standing outside a Ticketmaster outlet, only to watch giddy fellow fans snatch up their tickets and skip joyously out the door.

The day of the show, they released an additional small block of tickets. Fortuitously, I was in my car when this was announced on the radio, drove straight to the now-defunct Wherehouse on Broadway, and snagged two. When I told my best friend that we were now going to the concert we were certain we were shut out of, he screamed like a little girl.

The scene on the sidewalk outside the Showbox (and within the virtual environments of Facebook and Twitter) prior to Soundgarden's not-so-secret reunion show on Friday reminded me of how intensely emotions can run in either direction when tickets are this covetable. Moments after tickets went on sale online at 10 a.m., my Facebook feed turned into an avalanche of elation and despair, as people collectively refreshed their browsers ad nauseum in hopes of been one of the lucky few who would get to see one of Seattle's biggest bands of all-time play together on stage for the first time in 14 years. Once the Ticketmaster server recovered from an immediate crash, tickets were gone in a heartbeat, much to the dismay of the 70-plus crowd of fans waiting expectantly in line for the Showbox box office to open (no tickets were available for purchase at the venue).

That night, as ticket holders cued up for entry underneath a marquee that read "NUDEDRAGONS SOLD OUT" (with "Nudedragons" being an anagram for "Soundgarden"), they walked by desperate fans holding signs displaying triple-digit offers for tickets and the especially heartbreaking scene of one young woman simply giving up and bawling her eyes out. Showbox manager Jeff Steichen was surrounded by a chattering gaggle of male fans, trying to find an angle in. Inside, the private, friends-and-family bar was a grunge-era reunion with a downright euphoric vibe, with everyone from Mudhoney's Mark Arm to grunge godfather Jack Endino grinning broadly while the anticipation built in the room to unbearable levels till Soundgarden took the stage just after 10 p.m.

Opening number "Spoonman" was a little wobbly, but as soon as they followed that with back catalog favorite "Gun", they seemed to be finding their sea legs. They had spent the week prior rehearsing at Avast! studios in Greenwood, and it showed: there were no audible technical missteps from that point forward. The deep-cuts-focused set list, which included several tracks from their 1988 SST debut Ultramega OK, as well as the Sub Pop EP Fopp and 1989's Loud Love, was a wise-choice for the hometown crowd. The "hit single" factor was minimal, with "Outshined" and "Fell on Black Days" being the only big radio-friendly unit shifters busted out.

Frontman Chris Cornell reclaimed his hirsute status, with his curly mop grown out to shoulder length for the occasion. Bassist Ben Shepherd and guitarist Kim Thayil were somewhat more restrained and focused, but obviously happy to be home, cracking smiles once they settled into the 90-minute set, which was capped with a triumvirate encore of "Get on the Snake", "Big Dumb Sex" and a reinterpretation of the Doors' "Waiting For the Sun", which truth be told, didn't work terribly well, but did nothing to take away from what was essentially a wet dream for old school fans.

Back at an after-party in Ballard, Shepherd celebrated with a glowing crowd of friends, including Big Business/Melvins drummer Coady Willis, who flew up from Los Angeles that morning, as soon as he got word of the show. "It was weird," said Shepherd, reflecting on the incredibly warm and reverent reception the band got from the crowd. "I'm used to people throwing things at me!" Next on the official itinerary is their appearance at Lollapalooza in Chicago in August alongside incongruous co-headliners Lady Gaga and Phoenix, though speculations about a slot on Bumbershoot have started circulating already. We can only hope; reunions are rarely this triumphantly executed, and hopefully there's nothing holding them back from continuing forward.

 
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