Setlist History: Soundgarden's '92 Shows at the Paramount

When Soundgarden walked into the Paramount Theater on March 5, 1992, they were ready to transform into the rock superstars they were destined to be.

The fall of 1991 was revolutionary for grunge. In August Pearl Jam's Ten came out, in September Nirvana's Nevermind arrived, and in October Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger bum rushed the show. Also that fall, Metallica releases the Black album with the ominous "Enter Sandman" and Guns N' Roses follows up on Appetite for Destruction with the double album Use Your Illusion I & II.

Rock music was abundant, loud, weird, and being expanded by Seattle longhairs, and few were as heavy as Soundgarden, despite Chris Cornell's dreamy eyes.

The quartet had spent the December of '91 and January of '92 opening up for Guns in packed basketball arenas around the US, learning firsthand what its like to rile up tens of thousands of rockers, many of whom were seeing grunge for the first time.

Soundgarden's combo of Zeppelin's groove and Cornell's soaring vocals made for an easy bridge for audiences from the '70s into the '90s.

Badmotorfinger would go double platinum despite the fact there were so many other fantastic albums, cassettes and cds to buy at the mall.

In February they were opening for Skid Row, so come March, when they had the chance to headline for the first time in a while, they tore that joint up.

Because they knew they were recording the two hometown shows for a DVD, which would eventually be called Motorvision, they played two totally different sets.

On March 5 they opened with "Rusty Cage" that matched their chain link fence set design around their amps. But on March 6 they kicked it off with the more psychedelic "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" which leads off the DVD.

That tune is ideal to start a show, in part because of the weird See and Say voice overs.

"I got the idea, because somebody, my roommate, I think at some point, he had an old See and Say," Cornell said in an interview. "We pulled on the string and it was like, 'this is a cow' and then 'this is a pig.' Then we pulled on it and his voice slowed down... and I said out loud 'and the devil says.' And I thought that'd be really cool."

Like Eddie Vedder in Pearl Jam, Cornell was a mobile front man. Sure he could play rhythm guitar beautifully to give that sound some thickness. But when he unstrapped, he flung himself around the stage, climbed amps, jumped, and got into it.

When Sebastian Bach hired them to play he didn't know what he was getting into.

"We brought Soundgarden to the Fox Theater in Detroit to play back in 1992. We were on our Slave to the Grind Tour, with Pantera opening. Then they took a break and we said, 'Who’s the next heavy, killer band coming up now?' It was Soundgarden, and they came on the road with us for three weeks," Bach told Billboard shortly after Cornell died in 2017.

"In heavy metal, we’d try to run and jump around the stage, do these moves and shit," Bach continued. "When I’d ask Chris to jam with us at the end of the night on 'Train Kept A-Rollin’' by Aerosmith, he’d look at the stage like a track meet, running in a figure eight and doing somersaults.

"I’d turn around, and he’d be behind my back, faking so I couldn’t see where he was. And he’d be on a trampoline doing jumps behind the drum riser. I could tell he was sending up the sort of heavy-metal performance we were trying to do, always with a twinkle in his eye, laughing," the singer remembered.

In May, Guns would have Soundgarden open for them in Europe at castles and hippodromes and olympic stadiums. But in July they'd be back in the States for the second Lollapalooza on a whirlwind that wouldn't end until September.

Some might say peak Soundgarden was during those Lolla shows where each band is trying to outdo each other (and definitely beat the Chilis).

Others would say it was those Paramount shows where they were finally unchained, the stars of the night, on their home field, but still not road weary from too much of a grind.

The Melvins opened for Soundgarden on those two shows at the Paramount. In 2022 Dale Cover and bassist Steve McDonald covered "Spoonman" for their EP Lord of the Flies.

Who better to fill out the rhythm section than Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, who joined Pearl Jam in 1998.

The Melvins are playing Australia, New Zealand and Japan this month with Mr. Bungle. Grab your tickets off their website.

Pearl Jam's Dark Matter Tour begins in May. Tickets are available on the Pearl Jam website.

(He means 3/5/92)
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Last updated: 27 May 2024, 16:25 Etc/UTC