Back in March, Eric Church covered Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” for an exuberant crowd in Tacoma, Washington – his choice of song a tender, contemplative moment that paid tribute to Seattle’s hometown heroes. On Friday, at one of his Holdin’ My Own Tour’s last stops in Washington, D.C., the Chief performed another grunge classic, Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” under much more somber circumstances: to honor the passing of Chris Cornell, who took his own life last week.
Inspired by Johnny Cash’s version of “Rusty Cage” from his 1996 album American II: Unchained, Church played the song propelled by the Man in Black’s propulsive, locomotive guitar and with plenty of rock & roll fury. From Soundgarden’s third LP, Badmotorfinger, Cornell once described “Rusty Cage” as “hillbilly Black Sabbath,” a phrase that could certainly be applied to Church himself, particularly on The Outsiders album (Church even invited onetime Sabbath vocalist Glenn Hughes onstage in April.) Cornell was a Cash fan since childhood, once admitting that he listened to At San Quentin on repeat for an entire year before he was even a teenager.
Cornell played “Rusty Cage” for the last time with Soundgarden on May 17th in Detroit, Michigan, just hours before he died. He was 52.
Church’s Holdin’ My Own Tour comes to a close this weekend with two sold-out shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.