Soundgarden: 18 July 2011 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Alex Wolff

With supporting act The Mars Volta, Soundgarden were sure to bring the heat.



City: Morrison, CO
Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Date: 2011-07-18

In the dead of summer, getting out of the city heat and up into Morrison, Colorado, home of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, is always a treat. To have the opportunity to see one of the few remaining relevant acts of the ‘90s there, the one and only Soundgarden, is another venture entirely. The crowd was an interesting mix of young and old, everybody from high schoolers to baby boomers, and the show was most definitely sold out. With supporting act The Mars Volta, Soundgarden were sure to bring the heat.

When The Mars Volta took the stage in daylight and in full view of a sold out Red Rocks crowd, they took a very interesting risk. Until their final number, all of the tunes they played are as of yet unreleased and were completely unfamiliar to those in attendance. While the crowd remained mostly unmoved, the band did their best to have a good time with it and they played very, very well. Anticipation was rising, and the time was drawing near.

The sun having burned one more day to night, it was time for these gracefully aging alt-rockers to take the stage. The crowd erupted as the larger-than-life band stepped out onto the Red Rocks' stage. After what might have been a poor choice for an opener that did little to get attendees moving, they launched into "Spoonman". This saw the crowd go wild, and this wound up being the theme of the evening: the entire affair played like a greatest hits album. Where some bands are capable of rousing their audience with their more obscure tunes, it was obvious that the chart-toppers were what people came to hear. As a result, the band themselves seemed to have the most fun with the anthemic singles where those in attendance almost drowned out lead vocalist Chris Cornell, who certainly took chances with his soulful, unique voice for this packed house. For a band that hasn’t released any new music in a decade and a half, they manage to escape that stigma of being a pure nostalgia act, and this is as impressive as anything given the circumstances.

Soundgarden were tight that breezy, balmy night at Red Rocks. Drummer Matt Cameron, also of Pearl Jam, kept things driving into the night with his aggressive grooves while guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd brought the grunge sound in droves. Songs like "Blow Up The Outside World" and "Outshined" seemed to sound the best, and it quickly became clear why: the sound was rather poorly mixed, with the treble so loud that it was piercing and shrill to the ears. This was quite disappointing as the band was playing excellently, and it certainly detracted from the overall experience. That said, the sludgier numbers such as the ones mentioned as well as "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Pretty Noose" were what translated the best. Regardless of song choice, the four of them staggered around the stage drunk with rock stardom. Not just any old band sells out Red Rocks after a fourteen year live hiatus.

The throng of fans really didn’t seem to mind the bad mix. In fact, there were many in attendance who reported this being one of the better concert experiences of their lives. And understandably: the last time Soundgarden toured was 1997, and many of those at the show were children then, and might never have had a chance to see such an incredible band perform. And for all anybody knows, this could have been the last opportunity of its kind. It was apparent that people had traveled from far and wide to see such a rare spectacle as this treat of a band performing at one of the more spectacular venues in the country. It was a wonderful evening, and despite the minor drawbacks, both groups kicked major ass and Soundgarden provided a true experience for many grateful fans.

The Mars Volta






Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.