A damp day in London’s Hyde Park and a subdued, sparse crowd awaits 90’s grunge titans Soundgarden. It’s not the best of situations but Chris Cornell’s obvious nonchalance as he walks on stage to a fanfare of grimy amp feedback, seems to please the avid fans at the front (cue girls screaming). With an intro like ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’ it’s clear they intend to roll out the hits tonight, in their two hour headline set, and follow up ‘Spoonman’ is hurt either by dodgy sound quality or an un-warmed vocaliser a la Cornell, it’s hard to tell.
Luckily, the further into the set we get the better. As clearer vox on ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ and chart hit ‘Black Hole Sun’ start to warm up the crowd, Cornell laments on the 15 year hiatus and proclaims that they’re “Happy to be back”. Despite the joyful sentiment, the weather has other plans and chucks buckets on the already soggy scene, and despite the very public notices about an arena umbrella ban, up go the multicoloured domes to shelter the London crowd. Two drenched hippies in a state of distress (and miss-dress, they were wearing an extraordinary collection of woven garments which must have sucked up ALL the rain) stagger past holding each other up and screaming “I don’t know what you’re saying” over ‘Let Me Down’ and ‘Pretty Noose’. The melancholy sentiment now matches that of the dwindling crowd.
Something about an event in the heart of London seems to breed a disinterested attitude towards outdoor music, a guy next to us said that five of his friends who bought tickets today, didn’t bother to come because of weather forecasts. It’s easy to ditch and hop on a tube home here, unlike a normal camping festival and people seem to be embracing it, as Soundgarden move through to their more self indulgent numbers. ‘Super Unknown’ is a glistening gem in this moody close but encore track ‘Rusty Cage’ is met with indifference from the majority of listeners as they spend an age playing around with their pedals and messing about with feedback and resonance. The sight of these grown men standing resolutely holding their guitars up to amps like some teenage garage band, is a little funny to tell the truth. There’s a fine line between cool and cock, and this definitely crosses it. Soundgarden put on a good show, but not an epic one, and possibly weren’t the best fit for this festival, however – die-hard ‘garden fans got exactly what they came for.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Calling.