Blow Up the Outside (KTS 610/11)
Brixton Academy, London – September 19, 1996
Disc 1: Spoonman; Searching With My Good Eye Closed; Let Me Drown; Pretty Noose; Burden In My Hand; My Wave; Ty Cobb; Fell On Black Days; Boot Camp; An Unkind; Rusty Cage
Disc 2: Black Hole Sun; Outshined; Mail Man; Drawing Flies; Blow Up the Outside World; Kickstand; Slaves and Bulldozers; Never the Machine Forever; Jesus Christ Pose
As of the date of writing this review, it appears that Soundgarden is preparing to reunite for some 2010 activity after breaking up in the Spring of 1997. This is welcomed news, given the remarkable body of work the group compiled in their thirteen years together, and the commercial stinker that gifted vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Chris Cornell released in 2009. I was lucky enough to see Soundgarden at the 1992 Lollapalooza, and since then always wished a live recording of them was available because of their live sound and, in particular, Cornell’s soaring and beautiful vocal abilities. The first such recording I’ve been able to find is Kiss the Stone’s Blow Up the Outside, which is a very good and, at times, excellent audience recording. As the show featured songs spanning all of Soundgarden’s impressive catalogue, including their final studio album Down on the Upside, it is a bit of bittersweet document of a band that would split just months later. There is no evidence in this recording of anything other than a group that was in perfect synch, and why more live recordings of Soundgarden would be well received by collectors interested in their work.
The concert opener, “Spoonman”, is heavy with all instruments and vocals easily discernable. Cornell’s straining a bit at times at the start, but that quickly changes and he’s in top form in short order. A drawback throughout the recording, which appears early in “Spoonman”, is the presence of noisy concert-goers close to the recorder. While understandably excited about the show, which adds to the recording as it does in many audience recordings, it’s when they try to sing that the recording gets spoiled a bit, sometimes a lot. As a result, the near constant existence of these audience vocalists reduces the overall quality of this recording, and desirability of this title, which is a shame because the show’s awesome.
The band crashed into “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” out of “Spoonman” and the audience sounded as if it was in a near riot mood at that moment. The sound is expansive, with Thayil’s guitar work slicing through relatively clearly along with Shepherd’s deep bass playing. After “Let Me Drown”, Cornell comments about the “ringing in his ear” from the venue’s acoustics just before they launch into “Pretty Noose”, which finds him having some difficulty hitting notes. Thayil’s fuzz-box guitar is awesome in this performance, and Cornell asks the audience to “say cheese” after the song, and before they move into “Burden in My Hand”. There is great, full audience karaoke with Cornell at the beginning of this track, who does a solo performance of “Black Hole Sun” that has to be heard to be appreciated. “Drawing Flies” and “Slaves and Bulldozers” are two stand-out performances on disc 2, which ends with Matt Cameron’s frenetic drum pattern laying the foundation for a killer “Jesus Christ Pose” to close the show. The recording tales off with the closing music played at the venue, telling you the show’s over.
The 2-disc title comes in a standard jewel case with attractive artwork and pictures printed on glossy, thick paper stock. All in all, and given the scarcity of Soundgarden bootlegs, this title is recommended to any fans of this great band’s music.