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Concert Reviews:
Soundgarden makes sweet return at the Fillmore

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013

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DETROIT -- Soundgarden is hardly the only band facing the conundrum of wanting to play new material in front of fans hungry for the older stuff. But a decade and a half after its last performance in the metro area, the demand for the latter is perhaps a little bit stronger.

The Seattle quartet's solution: just play a whole lot of music, present AND past.

Soundgarden rocked the Fillmore Detroit on Sunday night, Jan. 27, for nearly two and a half hours, exuberantly revisiting its grungey heyday of the 80s and 90s and just as enthusiastically roaring through a half dozen songs from the new "King Animal," its first new album since 1996. Straddling the blurry lines between alternative, mainstream and metal, Soundgarden sounded as fit and ferocious as ever, and hardly like a break-up had ever happened. Only the gray in the beards of guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd indicated that a significant amount of time had passed -- and you'd be hard-pressed to find many teen or twentysomething drummers who could keep pace with Soundgarden's Matt Cameron.

"It's been way too long," frontman Chris Cornell acknowledged to fans who packed the Fillmore from the main floor aisles to the very top of the balcony. "You were there before. Thank you for being here when we came back."

Cornell and company certainly made up for lost time on Sunday and didn't waste a moment shifting into high gear, charging into the show with favorites such as "Spoonman" and "Jesus Christ Pose" before dipping deeper into their catalog for "Gun" and "Let Me Down." The Fillmore faithful were also treated to a very rare live performance of "Tighter & Tighter" from 1996's "Down on the Upside" -- "Watch us butcher it!" Cornell declared -- as well as early career fare such as "Hunted Down," "Flower" and a pulverizing "Incessant Mace" that closed the show.

Mixed in, meanwhile, were plenty of Soundgarden's signature tracks -- "My Wave," "The Day I Tried to Live," "Blow Up the Outside World," "Fell On Black Days, "Outshined," "Pretty Noose," "Rusted Cage" -- though "Black Hole Sun" was a glaring omission. And the new material, including the single "Been Away Too Long" and muscular renditions of "Non-State Actor," "By Crooked Steps" and "Rowing," more than held their own alongside the rest of the repertoire.

It was a generous saturation, the kind of show that could, if necessary, hold fans over for another 15 years. But that likely won't be the case; "We will be back many more times," Cornell promised, and after a show like Sunday's he can and his bandmates can feel confident the fans will still be there every single time.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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