Gexa Energy Pavilion (Dallas, TX)
– Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa –
Those who had seats at Gexa Energy Pavilion jumped up as soon as the intro track kicked on. They shouted with excitement, despite the fact that a massive sheet shrouded the stage, meaning nothing was visible. They then roared when the first notes of “Searching with My Good Eye Closed” rang out; and then the sheet dropped, revealing Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd.
Soundgarden may have been the opener on this must-see summer tour with them and Nine Inch Nails, but judging by all the excitement, you would have thought the pioneers of the grunge rock genre were the headliners for the night. Thayils’ guitar solo captivated every pair of eyes in the packed amphitheater; while Cornell jumped onto the drum riser right the end of the song.
“Thank you, Dallas. Dallas, Fort Worth and other places…” he said afterwards, making sure to not just lump everyone together as being from Dallas. The audience again shouted with delight over the prospect of “Spoonman”, which Shepherd took the spotlight on, doing a sort of windmill motion, though after plucking a chord, he raised his finger into the air for a second before unleashing another.
“Thank you so much,” Cornell told the crowd after he had handed his guitar off to a stagehand. He truly seemed gracious, and while this is a reaction they get practically night after night, he constantly seemed appreciative of the audience and their devout love for the band and their music. “We’re gonna go back and play an old song from Ultramega OK…” he informed everyone before they tackled “Flower”. Cornell proved even more engrossing without a guitar, where he really was able to explore the stage, but first, he shared a story with the fans. He went back to the first time they were played “all day and all night on television”, with a music video that had just taken off. He mentioned they had made several videos with the help of friends back when they were an indie band. “…We thought they were cool…” he proudly said of those low budget efforts. His tone changed when he got to their first professional music video, which he outright said they thought sucked, and he expressed some disdain about the “marrying” of visuals with videos. “…But don’t let that get in the way with how you feel about a song,” he stressed before “Outshined”, which saw him picking up the mic stand before the second chorus, as he walked all over the stage, brandishing it in the air and then carrying it over his shoulder.
“2014 marks the twentieth year for this album…” he said afterwards, a guitar back in his hands. “Conveniently, it’s called Superunknown” he said of the title track. “The Day I Tried to Live” was another excellent one; while Cameron launched them into “Been Away Too Long” with some furious beats on the drums. They had been cranking out the songs at blistering pace, but now, they took a break, which allowed Cornell to again share a story.
“This song was banned from the radio after 9/11…” he remarked, saying he assumed they didn’t want anything that might possibly inspire more acts of terrorism. That wasn’t what the song was about, though. “…It was about pushing the world away and stuff, like having to fight for our own little corner… Our own little space…” Cornell stated. His skills as a guitarist are superb, and he was in the zone on “Blow Up the Outside World”, and simply put, he killed it.
It was segued directly into “Fell On Black Days”; and the audience roared at the end when Cornell raised his axe above his head. “Dallas, let me see you! Let me hear you! he demanded before they marched on with their 70-minute long set, that, among other tracks, included “Black Hole Sun” and ended with “Beyond the Wheel”. It was with that last song the band reached a completely different level. It was epic in every sense of the word, from the grand scale of the music bed to the wailing Cornell did at times. Shepherd swaggered around the stage, eventually wandering over to stage right, where he and Thayil interacted a bit. The end was left up to them, after their other two band mates had exited the stage, and Shepherd created some feedback as he stood next to his amp, while Thayil laid his guitar atop his amp and proceeded to play it like a lap steel of sorts.
The show was spectacular. Soundgarden owned that stage for the little over an hour that they had it, and it was everything you’d expect from an arena level band and a living legend who was influential in shaping modern day
music. They seemed to appease every fan who was in attendance, too, and even left people wondering, “Can Nine Inch Nails follow this up?”