Soundgarden - 'Live On I-5' (A&M/UMe) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Monday, 21 March 2011 05:00

SoundgardenWhen Soundgarden reformed last year after a thirteen-year hiatus I for one was certainly very happy to welcome the Seattle rockers back with open arms.  I mean c'mon did anyone really enjoy Chris Cornell's totally ill conceived 'Scream' solo effort? No thought not. So, to have Chris rightfully back in the company of his Soundgarden buddies Kim Thayll, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepard, should at least keep any pesky Timbaland influences confined purely to the bands choice of footwear from now on.


The other more selfish reason I was so happy to welcome Soundgarden back was simply due to the fact that they are a band I never actually got to see live first time around.  Having been introduced to their brand of acid- dipped Black Sabbath/Stooges Garage Rock via the band's A&M debut (and second full length) album 'Louder Than Love' back in 1989, I somehow managed to miss them on both their club tour supporting 'Badmotorfinger' and then on their subsequent theatre tour supporting 'Superunknown', in spite of having tickets for both tours. But that's a messy story for another day.


'Live on I-5' then follows hot on the heels of last September's album of rarities and hits 'Telephantasm', and is a compilation of seventeen tracks taken from the band's 1996 tour that ran up and down Interstate 5 on the US West Coast... geddit?


Spanning a total of six shows recorded between late November to mid December the set list on this single CD reads a lot like an easy guide to the Arena Rock years of Soundgarden.  There is admittedly a smattering of older tunes, like 'Nothing To Say' from the band's debut EP, and a couple of covers, including a sombre 'Helter Skelter' segueing into an equally sombre version of 'Down On The Upside' album cut 'Boot Camp' to keep the more casual listener busy tracing their origins. The second cover incidentally is a hard to pin down version of The Stooges 'Search and Destroy', but by and large 'Live On I-5' is the sound of Soundgarden on maximum rock overlord mode, and boy do the West Coast audiences captured here lap this stuff up.


Personally, I find the jumping between shows manages to lose some of the vibe that the opening ragged and glorious trio of 'Spoonman', 'Searching With My Good Eye Closed' and 'Let Me Drown' start to develop. As no sooner is Chris warming up his awesome pipes on this choice set of tunes than we are off to a show at the end of the tour where the kaleidoscopic 'Head Down' wants to send you off to La La Land. Then the track listing suddenly returns for a sludge heavy run through 'Outshined' from the same gig as the first three tracks.  Are you as dazed and confused as I am yet?


As well as the leapfrogging of gigs you also need to be aware that the set list does drag a bit in the middle something that all Arena Rock shows by and large tend to do for the sake of "the show", but by and large this set is simply a muscular no frills show of largely undubbed live recordings that fully displays Chris Cornell's enormous bluesy vocal talents with all the rough edges fully intact, just how I love them.  Returning from their mid set lull with the aforementioned Stooges cover and a frantic 'Ty Cobb', it is left to a solo run through of 'Black Hole Sun' from Cornell, and a bipolar 'Jesus Christ Pose' that still gives me musical nightmares, to close things down.


For a band that I still fully intend to go and see when they finally return to the UK sometime soon 'Live On I-5' simply makes me wish I'd never missed that legendary 'Badmotorfinger' Bristol Bierkellar show back in 1992, where the bombast of this sets pretensions were just a twinkle in the band's eye. 


Still there's always the band's new studio album to look forward to, now that really should be 'total fucking godhead'.