Just came across this video of Soundgarden from Düsseldorf, 16 April 1990. It’s a solid performance from the first of the grunge bands to break out of Seattle; I hadn’t realised how much Cornell played guitar live in the (relatively) early days. I’m not sure what Matt Cameron’s drumkit did in a former life, but it must have been pretty wicked to deserve this sort of treatment.
If you’re asking, ‘but who exactly is that playing bass under all that hair?’, the answer gets to the nub of what makes this gig of interest. Jason Everman (for it is he), formerly of Nirvana, replaced Hiro Yamamoto after he quit the band at the end of 1989; the band were in flux over its direction and sound, and Yamamoto had contributed little to their second album, major label debut Louder than Love. The band had also faced a degree of criticism from its fans for heading towards the metal mainstream: indeed this Dusseldorf gig saw them supporting Guns’n’Roses.
Things didn’t work out with Everman, and he was replaced in the autumn of 1991 by longtime fan Ben Shepherd. (Everman would later go on to join Mindfunk for their excellent, albeit trend-chasing, grungy second album, Dropped.) Shepherd brought greater creativity and focus to the band’s songwriting, and his contribution helped bring more of the band’s identity, and its place in the burgeoning Seattle scene, with them as they courted a larger (and more mainstream) pre-Nevermind audience.
There’s a second reason this gig is of particular interest: it took place only two weeks after Cornell’s old roommate Andrew Wood had died of a heroin overdose, and Cornell dedicates ‘I Awake’ to him. Whilst on tour in Europe, Cornell had already started writing the first songs that would become Temple of the Dog.
Setlist: Flower, Hands All Over, Gun, Loud Love, Get on the Snake, Full On Kevin’s Mom, I Awake, Beyond the Wheel.
PS Here’s a fine review of Soundgarden at Hyde Park last ‘summer’.