If you have a Citi credit card you know they have this "rewards" website called private pass where they offer a lot of concert ticket presales and sometimes some exclusive shows for credit card holders. Needless to say I was intrigued when I received an email about two weeks ago saying Citi were hosting Soundgarden at Webster Hall in NYC for a 20th Anniversary performance of their album "Superunknown."
If my recollection is correct, Soundgarden have not played Webster Hall since around 1989 or 1990 when it was called The Ritz on the "Louder Than Love" tour. It holds a bit less than 1500 when sold out which it most definitely was on this night.
I didn't expect to be able to score any tickets (for the celebratory price of $19.94) but figured I'd give it the old college try.
They went on sale, I entered my password, put in the limit of 2 and five seconds after it went on sale I was informed it was sold out. Pretty much what I expected.
But I wished bad luck upon my fellow man and kept trying for the next few minutes and my voodoo wishes came true. At about 7 minutes in, after being told it was sold out about 50 times, someone evidently did not enter their credit card info in time and two tickets became available! Sweet!
I would find, when talking to others at the show, that it seemed I was one of the few non scalpers to get them at this price. Folks paid mucho dinero to attend this gig.
I don't think any of them went home disappointed!
We got to Webster Hall around 7:00pm with the ticket showing a start time of 8:00. Upon arriving we were suprised we didn't see any line. We talked to one of the guys working the door and he let us know the band would be coming on at 9:30 and there was no opener. He also let us know they were going to process tickets through the attached sports bar.
Our timing ended up being perfect. We went up the flight of stairs to the bar and there were probably about 150 Soundgarden fans there. Once it hit around 200 they stopped letting folks in. We enjoyed some tasty cold beverages and chatted with others and an hour passed quickly. At about 8:15, the woman at the entrance between the bar and Webster Hall then announced they would be letting us in.
We were in within 3 minutes, bought a shirt they made just for this event (it was the only merchandise available and they sold out quickly) and grabbed a spot on the left (Guitarist Kim Thayil's) side about 3 people back from the barrier. That bar entrance was the place to be because we all got in before they let people in the main entrance. Sweet!
There were really only a couple of questions we wondered while we waited the hour or so before the band was scheduled to come on. First would drummer Matt Cameron be with them for this gig? And would the set strictly be "Superunknown" from front to back. I expected no on the first question and yes on the second. Luckily I was proved wrong on both counts!
There was a large curtain on the stage with "CITI" in giant letters written across it. At 9:30 the curtain raised and the band walked out and yep, Mr. Cameron was with them.
The only other time Soundgarden have done a "Superunknown" anniversary show was at the South by Southwest festival in Austin earlier this year. At that show, it was as advertised. Superunknown and only Superunknown was performed.
The band was super tight and the album had an extra level of heaviness in this live setting. The band would be incredibly intense during the performance of the songs, but then mellow and wry and joking with the crowd between, telling stories about the songs they just played or were about to. It was a cool vibe.
"Superunknown" is chock full of Soundgarden's biggest hits, so there were some mighty roars of approval from the crowd when those were played, but it was also good to see that more or less everyone seemed to know every track on this album and there was never a lull in the packed hot and sweaty room.
Quite possibly the biggest crowd reaction of the night came right before the band played "Kickstand" when Ben Shepherd went to the mic and reminded the crowd that 20 years ago when this album came out was also when the New York Rangers last won the Stanley Cup. The Rangers are in the Stanley Cup finals again this year and this led to a "Let's Go Rangers" chant normally reserved for Madison Square Garden.
About half way through the show Chris Cornell spoke about how this album is about 74 minutes long, but that was too short for a rock show, so they would be playing longer than that on this evening.
The band stretched out quite a few of the songs and when they finished "Like Suicide," the last track on the album, 90 minutes had passed. They left the stage but the lights didn't go up. They were back in a few minutes and treated the crowd to a killer two song encore of "Outshined" and ended the night with "Rusty Cage" both off "Badmotorfinger."
Just a fantastic show all around. As a bonus, on the way out the door, everyone got a copy of the newly remastered 20th anniversary edition of the Superunknown on CD. I wondered if for many of those younger folks in the crowd (not the 43 year old fogies like me) if they even had a place to play a CD! Ah how the times have changed...
But what has not changed it the power of Soundgarden. The guys sound great and all the women in the audience absolutely let everyone know they though Chris Cornell was looking great.
Thank you concert ticket gods...a worthy sacrifice will come your way.
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