World Tour 1996-1997: The Fans' Report
Melbourne, Australia, 25 Jan 1997
Soundgarden came out to a big reception. Every direction you looked was just totally full of people, really huge. Chris, Kim, Ben and Matt hit the stage and Chris greeted everyone, welcoming us to the "Big Day Over", and went on to start Spoonman. They were rocking from the start and were in incredible form. It's really hard to descibe in words how good they were. Chris' voice sounded almost perfect, you could feel Matt's drums thudding inside your chest which felt amazing, Ben's bass was clearly audible, and Kim just walked around the stage pounding out incredible riff after riff in such a laid back 'hey this is easy!' style. Chris was wearing a black shirt with jeans, Kim with his famous Tool top and black jeans, Matt, well couldn't see him that clearly, and Ben was wearing this long sleeved creamy coloured cardigan looking thing. The end of Spoonman joined onto Searching With My Good Eye Closed which was incidently amazing. I think that it was 10 times better than the album version, a lot looser and dirtier. Chris told us that seeing this was the last Big Day Out we should go right off, and it seems that while the crowd did as he asked, they did as well! Soundgarden ripped into Let Me Drown and it also sounded great. I think that everything they played was possibly a touch better than on album, they just seemed to be kicking arse! My Wave was met with a big response and 'The Pogo' was adapted by almost everyone there. The extended part at the end of that sounded really cool with Chris yelling out 'My wave, my wave, your wave, your wave etc.' Pretty Noose was great, I've heard that the song is a big test on Chris' voice but he sang it close to perfectly. Chris introduced what he said was a romantic song - and then screamed into Ty Cobb, minus the mandola, and the crowd went apeshit. Chris went off with the 'Hard Headed Fuck You All' as he gestured with his extended middle finger repeatedly! The mosh pit looked totally wild after Ty Cobb, and I think that the mad moshers needed a bit of a break, so Black Hole Sun's appearance was timely to say the least. The others left Chris alone for his Black Hole Sun solo, and before he started there was still a fair bit of crowd noise. Chris has said something like 'I don't think I can hear people talking...they couldn't be!' and then all these others in the crowd are yelling out "SHUT UP SHUT UP", so they did! The solo version was breathtaking, the crowd tried to sing along but Chris has a habit of changing the way he sings live so that people can't! He made a couple of mistakes on the guitar during this song but nobody seemed to mind, as it was such a great, honest performance. The others rejoined Chris and then Outshined came on! By now it was almost totally dark and the stage lights were taking full effect. The atmosphere was electric! And the weather was absoloutely perfect, very comfortable with a light cool breeze. Outshined was fantastic, it was great to hear them play songs from Badmotorfinger, and they played it as well as ever, Chris with his usual stomping attitude on stage. Blow Up The Outside World was the best for the night I think. It was just so full of emotion and feeling it was overwhelming. I sort of felt my eyes well up a bit even (yeah call me a wuss if ya want). It was just pure ecstasy, at the moment. They played it a touch slower and it sounded way heavier than the Down On The Upside version. Search & Destroy, an Iggy Pop cover which I hadn't heard before, Rusty Cage which went like a train (Chris didn't mention Johnny Cash for a change) and Slaves & Bulldozers made up the rest of the show. Rusty Cage was really cool, and I especially like the end part, which gets slower on Badmotorfinger, where he's saying "When the forest burns along the road..." it got REALLY slow, reminding me of the slow way that they play Gun live. It sounded so cool, and then there was heaps of feedback at the end before we were taken home with the thundering crash of "and run!!!" Slaves & Bulldozers is one of my favourites, although when they started playing it I was thinking, well, that just might be it for the night because it's so long especially when they start jamming on it. It was worth the time though because it was great. It had an extended jam in the middle that had 'Everyone's got something to hide except me and my monkey' a Beatles cover. Chris concluded with "Don't take shit from no-one!" and threw his microphone on the ground as if it was in disgust and then left. It seemed really cool when he done that. When they left the stage everyone was expecting an encore, especially seeing we didn't get to hear Jesus Christ Pose and I knew that they played that in Brisbane. Our dream wasn't fulfilled though, because an announcement was made along the lines of "Soundgarden will not be performing an encore. There is a curfew". This was met with BOO!! But to no avail. There was then a fireworks display which was the consolation prize for a Soundgarden encore. Kim emerged from the darkness of the stage to wave goodbye, a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and everyone cheered them home - they deserved was a truly great show and great night : and day! The band looked to be enjoying every minute of the show - I didn't see Ben chuck any tantrums, he was just grooving along and having a good time, as was the rest of the band. That kind of music is definitely good for your soul, I was on a high for days after!
WIRED FOR SOUNDGARDEN Paul Murphy Grunge is possibly the most undefined musical style of the nineties. Bands classified as grunge, such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, seemed to have no common attribrute. The genre was something different, raw, and, most importantly, it was perceived as being rebellious. The youth paid top-dollar for any merchandise considered to be related to grunge, as is the case with all teenage crazes. Upon recognition of their vulnerability, many companies began to skew their products in the direction of the youth by incorporating the noun. Amongst them were independent promoters, Lees and West, the masterminds behind the Big Day Out. The Big Day Out debuted in nineteen ninety-two, with leading acts Nirvana, Violent Femmes and Henry Rollins. This festival was Sydney-based. As years progressed and crowd numbers increased, Lees and West spread their wings outside of the New South Wales capital to the other major cities of Australia and New Zealand. The musical line-up began to manifest, more and more, the influence of grunge. Musical groups, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Tumbleweed, Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, all made an appearance during the festivalís six year span. The latter returned for the final tour, Six and Out: The Big Day Out, as a part of their Down on the Upside tour. Many believe Soundgarden to be "swinging unconvincingly on the coat-tails of grunge". However, their history proves otherwise: the first album, Ultramega OK, was released in nineteen eighty-seven on the Sub Pop label, a label which also sparked the career of grunge-rockers Nirvana and Green River (soon to become Pearl Jam); the band was founded in Seattle, as were most other bands of the genre and; members of Soundgarden joined in mourning of the death of Mother Love Bone vocalist Andy Wood, a man dubbed the ĎForefather of Grungeí, on the tribute album, Temple of the Dog. Yet Soundgarden have fused influences such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Cult to produce a unique style unlike anything relative to the genre. Seven albums over ten years, from Ultramega OK to Down on the Upside, demonstrate how a noisy garage punk group can develop their sound into a dirty-style thrash punk-funk with occasional psychedelic and eastern-influence. The quintet were the final band to perform at the nineteen ninety-seven Big Day Out on the twenty-second of January, starting at nine oí clock in the evening. The crowd had devoted an entire day to their favourite musical groups in an overpopulated Melbourne Showgrounds, twenty-nine degree heat and spending generous amounts of money on propaganda and food. Soundgardenís support band, the Offspring, had attracted a multitude of youngsters to the main stage, whom they provoked with profanities while playing songs that all sounded the same. Those awaiting Soundgarden stood in silent vigil, lethargic from the other the performances of the day and sun-burnt to a crisp. Many weary heads lifted in unison when, out of the wings, sauntered Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell, lead guitarist, Kim Thayil, bass player, Ben Shepherd, and drummer, Matt Cameron, onto the stage. A pathetic cheer teetering on the edge of a yawn escaped the depths of the stationary mosh pit in recognition of the foursome. Suddenly, eyes popped open, heads snapped up and bodies began to convulse as the band broke into their opening piece, Spoonman, rescuing even the most fatigued audience members from the nether-regions of slumber land. An explosion of metallic guitar riffs, thumping bass, throbbing drums and screaming vocals blaring from the two monolithic loud speakers. The tone was heavy and crisp. "This is the Big Day ĎOverí," lamented Cornell, after finishing Spoonman. "Itís the last one ... so letís go f***ing off!" Whether it was an order, a suggestion, or just a gratuitous use of an obscenity, the crowd seemed to submit to his words. Despite the back of my ticket reading "Activities such as moshing, crowd surfing and stage diving are dangerous to yourself and others ... Patrons engaging in these or other dangerous activities will be removed from the site", the mosh pit had accumulated a large number of people to prove the ticket wrong. Most of Soundgardenís repertoire for the night could be heard on their fifth and sixth album, Badmotorfinger and Superunknown respectively; few were from their new album. The band were inclined to manipulate most of the pieces they played. Cornell struck a tear in the eyes of onlookers with his solo performance of Black Hole Sun, a personal recital of the song that sealed the bandís fame in nineteen ninety-four. Before each member of the audience could lie down to wallow in the sorrow he had ignited in their hearts, the other members of the band joined in, taking the song out with a thundering climax. Soundgarden also covered Iggy Popís Search and Destroy, possibly as an ode to the Schweppes stalls who were selling their food and drink at outrageous prices. The most memorable and outstanding piece performed that night was their closing slow and sullen groove, Slaves and Bulldozers. This song was the highlight of Thayilís guitar- playing. Many times during the song did Thayil leave the rhythm to Cornell whilst he strolled around the stage, adjusting his guitar into awkward positions and showering himself in a field of feedback. In fact, most of the members ventured off to another end of the stage for a different perspective at one point or another. Cornell went so far as to lie down on the floor, head resting on his own amplifier, looking up at Thayilís hands frantically run up and down his fretboard in improvisation. The manís solos were spellbinding. Positioned at the front of the stage, lights casting fickle colours on his figure, Thayil brutally raped his instrument with speeding fingers, occasionally forcing it to weep a mass of feedback. Cornell took hold of the microphone somewhere amidst this orgy of guitar-sounds and began to chant "Everyoneís got something to hide, except me and my monkey" over and over. Eventually, the song reverted from its lengthy tangent back to the original format of the song, only to close on a resounding and booming final note. The quintet returned to the wings as Cornellís guitar lie alone on the stage, wailing with feedback. The crowd cheered for an encore once the amplifiers had been shut down, to prevent the danger of the feedback deafening. Their souls were ablaze with enthusiasm, yet the stage remained empty and dark. A voice came over the loud speaker, announcing apathetically., "There will be no encore; Soundgarden have a curfew of ten oí clock". Curfew? How can a grunge band have a curfew? Isnít grunge about social-upheaval and defiance? As the sky began to light up with an array of fireworks (little compensation for denying the crowd an encore), I realised perhaps it was not. But nothing could prepare me for what was yet to sink in. This was the last Big Day Out festival ever.