Ever since the Audioslave concept was unveiled in the spring of 2001, fans of the rock and roll supergroup have wondered whether the band’s members would ever revisit the material they’re perhaps better, if not best, known for — or, more specifically, how Chris Cornell would attack songs like “Killing in the Name” and “Sleep Now in the Fire.”
On Thursday night in Las Vegas, where Audioslave kicked off their spring tour at the Joint, what was once a sort of band taboo became the stuff of concert lore. For the first time in more than five years, Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden material was performed live in front of a thirsty audience — and not by some tattooed cover band on dollar-drafts night at some bar in some college town in the middle of nowhere.
Cornell, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk shocked audiences last week by digging into their respective vaults and dusting off some moldy oldies. After playing “Set It Off,” “Exploder,” new song “Your Time Has Come” and “Like a Stone,” the band launched into Soundgarden’s “Spoonman.” Later on in the show, Audioslave covered — if you could call it that — Rage’s “Sleep Now in the Fire,” followed immediately by “Outshined,” from Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger.
For the band’s encore, Audioslave started light, with an acoustic rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and then exploded with versions of Rage’s “Testify” and “Killing in the Name.” The band performed the same six songs the next night in Phoenix.
A collective willingness to acknowledge the bandmembers’ pasts is somewhat of a new thing for Audioslave. Prior to this tour and the recording of the band’s forthcoming disc, Out of Exile, Audioslave struggled with an identity crisis, Cornell said recently. In order to sell themselves as a new band that was more than just the dude from Soundgarden with those other dudes from Rage, Audioslave had decided against playing anything but material from their self-titled debut.
“In 10 months of touring, we did nothing but play Audioslave songs,” he said. “Even though we have vast career catalogues, we didn’t touch on that. We carved ourselves out, I believe, a spot for Audioslave on its own terms and by itself.”
A source close to the band said Audioslave expect to continue digging into back catalogs on this spring jaunt, but that they’d be mixing it up a bit more, as far as what songs they’ll perform.
For more on Audioslave, check out the feature “Audioslave: Beyond The Sum Of Their Parts.”