Soundgarden wraps up Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza-chris-cornellImage Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesWhen attending Lollapalooza, you have to make some agonizing decisions about what to see.  Green Day or Phoenix? The New Pornographers or Devo? Arcade Fire or Soundgarden? With five or more bands playing simultaneously at any given time, you can’t have it all, I’m afraid. As Chicago’s biggest music fest came to a close on Sunday, there was no other way to cut it—Day 3 was a letdown. By which I mean Soundgarden was a letdown, since the historic reunion of Chris Cornell’s Seattle grunge band was one of the highlights of Sunday’s schedule. This was just their third concert since their reunion in April, and, for that matter, since their breakup 13 years ago. (Arcade Fire, who played at the same time, were a mile away at the opposite end of Grant Park, so there was no possibility of taking in a bit of both acts.)

I had a few reservations leading into their set. First, it was obvious this was going to be little more than just a greatest hits concert. I mean, Soundgarden hasn’t released any new material since 1997. Also, Chris Cornell has since left his grunge roots far behind, embracing pop-rock instead, and even contributing the lackluster song “You Know My Name” to Casino Royale.

Few shared my reservations. One woman named Jackie who was attending the concert with her husband told me that Soundgarden was her favorite band. “I’ve been waiting 15 years to see them live,” she said. “I’ve seen Audioslave in concert and Chris Cornell’s solo act, but never Soundgarden.” Gauging from the audience reaction to their first glimpse of Cornell & Co., the rest of the crowd was every bit as excited, more so than they had been for Lady Gaga or Green Day the nights before. From the start, dozens of lighters (not cell phones, thankfully, with all due respect to the Surgeon General) popped up, pointed at the sky.

To be fair, Soundgarden’s concert opened well, with classic hit after classic hit—including “Spoonman” and their enduring masterpiece “Black Hole Sun.” But unlike the effervescent Billie Joe Armstrong the night before, Chris Cornell didn’t interact with the crowd at all. He played song after song with a dour reserve. Sure, I know grunge is all about melancholy. But Cornell’s vocals and guitar lacked passion, feeling dutiful more than inspired. It was a competent set, but little more than that. Unlike Green Day, who played for an additional 15 minutes beyond their allocated time, Soundgarden ended 10 minutes early. Everybody stood motionless for a few moments, thinking that more was to come. But no, a Macy Gray song started blaring from the speakers to signal that Soundgarden, and by extension Lollapalooza, was done. By all rights, this concert should have been historic. The crowd couldn’t have been more excited if Kurt Cobain had gone all Lazarus on us and Nirvana reunited. Instead, I was left feeling that I should have seen Arcade Fire instead.

And with that, Lollapalooza comes to a close. For those of you who were there, what were your favorite acts? What do you wish you could have seen? And, like me, were you disappointed with Soundgarden?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (71 total) Add your comment
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  • darclyte

    That’s too bad about Soundgarden. I think Chris is just not a happy guy in general and he once (fairly recently too) had said that the only reason for Soundgarden to reunite would be for the money and he wasn’t into that. Well, I guess he really wasn’t into it and it showed. It was great to see The Candy Band rock the Kidzapalooza stage, as Perry himself has said, they’re awesome! Lots of other standouts, but too many to name. Lollapalooza & Soundgarden may have “sold out,” but it was still a good time.

  • Peter

    That is too bad. It should have been epic. I love the band. I rank Superunknown as one of the all-time best albums (even though I detest Black Hole Sun. I never got the love for that song), and Badmotorfinger is up there as well. I would have preferred if they’d exited gracefully when they did and left it at that.

    • d’laine

      thank you Peter, I went to a Chris Cornell concert and rolled my eyes when he started singing that song !!LOL much to the annoyance of others who were “soundgarden” fans. I’m a “Chris Cornell” fan. And he was always interacting with the crowd . Shame about lollapalooza.

  • UGH

    Welcome to a normal Soundgarden concert. I saw them twice back in the day and Cornell didn’t say alot between songs. Who needs a generic “How ya doin’, Chicago?” from yet another lead singer. It’s all about the music…..well, maybe the money as well in this case.

  • dirtyfunk-g

    I think Soundgarden’s set was just fine. I don’t think the crowd expected them to be as metal as they are/were and were turned off by it. And frankly, stage banter isn’t really my thing to watch. His vocals lacked passion? You must have been watching another band. The man’s vocals were spot on and as powerful as they’ve been in almost 20 years.

  • casepr

    Agreed. He sounded great…and I don’t know if you were gone, not paying attention, or just smoking something using someone’s lighter (not cell phone), but i’m pretty sure Cornell jumped into the sea of people and walked around in the crowd for an entire song (maybe “Blow up the Outside World”?) That’s pretty effing interactive, no?

    • Eric

      I agree. They were amazing, and Chris Cornell thanked the audience after every single song. He actually jumped down and ran into the audience to sing Outshined. I got a high-five from him on his way back to the stage. Soundgarden were great showmen, Cornell sang with tons of passion, and they played a set with hits mixed with more obscure songs. It was well worth seeing.

      • Jen

        I was there and I thought they sounded great. Chris sounded great and I thought he enteracted w/ the crowd enough. I think it is silly when people try to compare headliners when they are completely different bands. Green Day was great too but they are a completely different style of band so to compare the two is like comparing apples to oranges. I did leave Soundgarden about 40 min early and did actually walk down to catch the last two songs or Arcade Fire.

  • UGH

    I remember Ben Shepherd used to jump into the crowd a lot.

  • mkaffeine

    Sorry the set was limp, but I have to disagree with your characterization of “You Know My Name”: great lyric (especially for the introduction of a new Bond), great guitar riff, great vocal.

    • Dede

      “You Know My Name” is a great song.

    • Outshined

      Casino Royale is my husband’s favorite movie, Chris Cornell is my favorite singer, you can guess that my ringtone for him is “You Know My Name”!

  • John

    Strangely enough, I did catch both a bit of Soundgarden before seeing Arcade Fire. Soundgarden started a half hour earlier. Soundgarden was everything they were supposed to be. HEAVY. This isn’t music where guys (Billie Jo Armstrong) go sliding across the stage. These are dirges about drug abuse and lonliness. Chris did give us a few “how ya doin’ Chicago”s by the way. I might have even seen him smile.

  • Ehmeh

    Obviously, the writer is not a fan of SG and has no idea what their shows are about..should’ve stuck to writing about Green Day or Arcade Fire..namely by the fact that a) you’re still calling them grunge and b) that that phenomenal show was a “letdown”. Don’t write about something u don’t know about and didn’t stay a full show for. I, for one, and all the other fans around me that were screaming our heads off, couldn’t have been happier. Next time, do your homework.

    • mari

      I know. He kept on calling them a grunge band when they are in fact not one. They just happened to be in Seattle when the “grunge” scene exploded. But Soundgarden & Alice in Chains are not (and never were) grunge bands. Hire a better music critic EW.

    • Deep Six

      I’m guessing Blauvelt refers to Soundgarden as a grunge band because they were/are a grunge band. If you think otherwise, you need to spend some time researching the history of grunge as well as the history of Soundgarden.

  • matt

    soundgarden is pretty much the only reason i made the trip from NY. a choice between then in arcade fire was a joke. i was glad there was another show at the same time so atleast the kids who really didnt give a crap werent there. it was awesome to see a great band play great songs. if this writer was disappointed then he shouldnt have been there. seeing chris, kim, matt and ben on stage was worth it. who really knows or cares why they were up there but they were and drinking a beer watching them was certainly better than drinking alone.

  • Flatdog

    I hope you had fun at Lady Gaga IDIOT

  • Bailey


  • Chris

    How can a real music fan have the dilemma of choosing between the flavor of the month (Arcade Fire) and a band that will be one day be considered a classic (Soundgarden)?

    • JQ

      SoundGarden is Classic :)

    • Mac

      One thing’s for sure, Arcade Fire is much more than a flavor of the month, and I can attest that their show, which I wasn’t too stoked on, turned out to be one of the highlights for me. Ultimately though, Wolfmother kicked arse

    • josh

      Arcade Fire has been a band for eight years; Soundgarden didn’t last *all* that much longer than that.

      • Nicole

        rattiepeake on September 20, 2011 Not about this puaticalrr song (although I love iot! ), but Avenue Q has honestly taught me most of my life morals.

  • Minutiae

    You guys are expecting too much. EW’s music people obviously don’t like hard rock or metal (unless the band is called “Metallica”, because it’s still cool to be a fan of theirs). This is the same magazine whose Coachella reporter skipped Faith No More’s set.

    • DMR

      Faith no more is horrible in concert. Saw them with GN’R and Metallica back in the day. I’d skip them in a heartbeat unless they got “epic”ally better

      • Minutiae

        Well, I just saw them in April and they were phenomenal. Best show I’ve seen in years.

      • nick

        what? FNM are the soooooo good live!

  • Joe

    I was @ the show..they dominated it!!! It was raw and heavy. This guy has no idea what he is talking about.

    • bigwheel

      I’m not surprised at the critics. They’ve been getting it wrong FOREVER. Once SG is gone, we’ll all be subjected to corporate formulas and sampling. SG was refreshing and artistic as always.
      I would have appreciated better parking and control of sewer emissions.

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