Enslaving the Masses
Audioslave Takes Command at AvalonBy Petar Simich
Audioslave and Burning Brides
March 3, 10 p.m.
Audioslave, the new band formed by the former musicians of Rage Against The Machine and the former vocalist of Soundgarden, came through Boston last week on their first American tour promoting their self-titled debut album.
Expectations have been high for this supergroup, and sure enough, they left the audience wanting more.
The opening act was Burning Brides, a Philadelphia-based metal band consisting of Dimitri Coats (vocals/ guitar), Mike Ambs (drums), and Melanie Campbell (bass). Their sound had heavy hints of Black Sabbath, Slayer, and even the darker elements of Soundgarden, which was rather fitting for the occasion.
Coats handled the vocals very well, his singing accented with the occasional Tom Araya scream, and the guitar parts were rather dynamic with ample use of the wah pedal and other effects. Ambs’ drumming was decent but didn’t seem that natural or comfortable because of his stiff appearance. His arms didn’t even look like they would bend at the elbow. And then there was Campbell, the token female bassist. Don’t get me wrong, she played fine, but nowadays if there is going to be a female in a rock band she’s most likely going to be the bassist. Where the heck are the girl lead guitarists?
Burning Brides ended their set to all-around cheers from the audience, and then I noticed how incredibly packed the room was. It took a 110-percent effort to get from one point to another, and I was stuck at not the greatest but a reasonable spot by one of the bars. Wow, and this was only the first night of Audioslave’s stay in Boston. I also noticed that a large proportion of the audience members were in their thirties. I was doing the same thing that these guys did twenty years ago for Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden. Man, did that make me feel young.
Chaos ensued when Audioslave took the stage. Tom Morello walked out in his pseudo Boy Scout uniform, strapped on his guitar, and launched into the opening riff of “Gasoline,” while the ever-amazing Chris Cornell took the microphone and soon had the entire crowd singing along with him. That was the most remarkable thing about the show: practically everyone knew all the lyrics and was singing along with Cornell. Audioslave hasn’t existed for a year and their album has been out for only a few months, yet everyone was in a fit of fervor for this holy combination of Rage and Soundgarden.
Tim Commerford bobbed along with his mad sans plectrum bass skills while Brad Wilk provided his unrelenting drumming. Morello was all over the stage cycling through the wide array of his trademark weird-yet-cool guitar effects and styles and flashing the occasional peace sign, not forgetting his responsibility as a musician to educate the masses on political matters. Cornell did an excellent job as a front man, commanding the audience with his powerful voice and smashing up his mike stand. Although he can’t shriek like he did ten years ago, his singing that night was at the top of his game, even better than on many of the thirty plus Soundgarden bootlegs that I have.
The band went through most of the songs on their album including an unknown one, which the audience pretended to know the lyrics to. The best performances that night were also the best songs on the album: “Like a Stone” and “The Last Remaining Light.” Ironically, the reason they are the best songs is because they are the ones that sound the least like Rage. Sure, Rage songs with those distinctive, imposing riffs are good, but it gets old and uncreative after hearing them in almost every Rage and in several Audioslave songs. The two mentioned above, however, take a slower and less muscular approach, resembling Cornell’s solo material.
But whatever the song was, whether the fast-paced and danceable “Hypnotize” or the traditional quiet verse/ explosive chorus “Shadow on the Sun,” the audience quickly devoured it and screamed for more. When Morello came back out for the encore he exchanged his scout uniform for a t-shirt of his alma mater, Harvard (I was tempted to voice my disapproval).
The show ended with the unexpectedly laid back “I Am the Highway,” with Cornell strumming on an acoustic guitar and a fiery version of the radio favorite “Cochise.” As the band left the stage, Morello flashed his peace sign again and the audience responded with peace signs and more cheers. If Morello jumped off of a cliff, so would the audience.
Audioslave put on an overall excellent live show. Despite the fame from their past connections and the middle-aged guy right behind me guy singing (very badly) along to every single frickin’ Audioslave song, they have some real potential to be a remarkable band.