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Soundgarden concert review: Call it a comeback

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Soundgarden’s Cornell (right) and Thayil
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/ErikKabik.com

A band reunited after 14 years apart and playing almost exclusively songs from its back catalog sounds like the formula for a lazy cash-in, but the members of Soundgarden were anything but lazy during their two-hour-plus show at the Joint on Saturday. Singer/guitarist Chris Cornell noted that the band had been busy recording a whole bunch of new songs, but wanted to provide fans with a chance to hear older material first (“It’s all kind of old now,” he pointed out).

Soundgarden @ The Joint

The Details

Soundgarden
Three and a half stars
July 23, The Joint

And that didn’t just mean huge ’90s alt-rock hits like “Black Hole Sun” and “Outshined” and “Spoonman” (although all of those were present, along with plenty of other popular singles)—it also meant deep cuts from the band’s popular albums, plus several songs from 1989 major-label debut Louder Than Love and even a couple from earlier than that. This wasn’t a band taking advantage of nostalgia to make a quick buck; it was four guys putting their hearts into playing songs that they loved.

Those four guys still sounded pretty good, too. Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron have remained active thanks to their respective work with Audioslave and Pearl Jam, but guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd were just as sharp, and the band played really well as a unit. Cornell’s famously powerful voice was a little restrained at times and augmented by reverb effects, although he seemed to have no trouble hitting and sustaining the high notes on songs like “Jesus Christ Pose.” But hearing him holding back during moments that are electrifying on record was a little disappointing.

There was no similar holding back elsewhere. Thayil and Cornell’s dual-guitar attack brought welcome intensity to show highlights “Gun,” “My Wave” and main-set closer “4th of July.” Cameron is such a kinetic, inventive drummer that just watching him the entire time would have been worth the price of admission. Cornell promised that the band would return armed with new material in the future, and given the strength of this retrospective show, that return would be welcome even without any new songs.

Setlist:

"Searching With My Good Eye Closed"

"Spoonman"

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

"Gun"

"Jesus Christ Pose"

"Blow Up the Outside World"

"The Day I Tried to Live"

"My Wave"

"Pretty Noose"

"Fell on Black Days"

"Ugly Truth"

"Big Dumb Sex"

"Loud Love"

"Outshined"

"Rusty Cage"

"Black Rain"

"Black Hole Sun"

"Head Down"

"Burden in My Hand"

"Superunknown"

"4th of July"

Encore:

"Beyond the Wheel"

"Hunted Down"

"Slaves & Bulldozers"

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