Soundgarden: Live On I-5

Soundgarden: Live On I-5

Coming on the heels of several well-received reunion shows in 2010—and in the middle of songwriting sessions for what would be the band’s first album since 1996’s Down On The UpsideLive On I-5 strangely is neither a snapshot of Soundgarden as it stands now, or a reminder of what the legendary grunge outfit was capable of at its absolute best in the early ’90s. Rather, it’s the product of good old-fashioned vault-cleaning: Live On I-5 was recorded during a West Coast tour in support of Down On The Upside, right about the time that Soundgarden’s members were drinking and feuding their way out of being a working band. Live On I-5 was supposed to be released in 1997, but Soundgarden ended up breaking up not long after playing these shows. The live album is finally here now, but why? This isn’t the Soundgarden that fans or even the band would prefer to remember. Chris Cornell’s powerful howl sounds weakened by the road (or maybe Jack Daniels) on the otherwise indomitable “Rusty Cage” and so-so covers of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and The Stooges’ “Search And Destroy,” and the rest of the band plays competently, but never with the ferociousness it was known for. While the album features respectable performances of many of the band’s biggest hits—even a diminished Soundgarden can’t muffle the power of the almighty “Outshined”—Live On I-5 should have stayed in the dark hole it’s been buried in for 15 years.

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