The Soundgarden fans who packed out the 1,400-capacity Vic Theatre in Chicago last night for the band's second reunion gig were not treated to the same, classic material-driven set the band performed in Seattle in April, but instead to a night leaning on latter-day tunes, big hits and a few surprises.
Frontman Chris Cornell, casually dressed in a T-shirt and cutoffs — and apparently attempting to regain some of his old onstage mojo by regrowing his hair — spent most of the night behind a guitar, only stepping out with a mic in hand for a few tunes, like "Outshined," with its heavy as hell steamroller riffs still thundering as mightily as ever. Guitarist Kim Thayil traded his skull cap for a fedora, and gave a master class on tasteful use of a wah-wah pedal on cuts like "Fell on Black Days," creating a swirling sense of claustrophobia and, ultimately, release.
Late in the night, the crowd was treated to a rare full-band version of "Black Hole Sun," a track the band used to break out as a mid-set solo number for Cornell. The fan-pleasing didn't stop there, and the set skewed heavily towards the five-times platinum Superunknown, delivering not only the hits but deeper cuts like "Head Down," "Like Suicide," and "4th of July," a gut-churningly down-tuned dirge that was only ever performed a handful of times in the mid-Nineties.
Cornell began the night in slightly weaker voice, sounding a bit hoarse on a perfunctory and rushed version of "Spoonman" and forgetting a few of the lyrics of "Fell on Black Days," but he seemed to gain confidence and steam as the night went on, especially during ragers like "Face Pollution" and a powerful "Blow Up the Outside World," one of three songs performed from the band's 1996 swansong, Down on the Upside. Perhaps he was preserving his voice for the band's headlining set at Lollapalooza on Sunday, which was probably a good idea, as the gig lasted just a tick over two hours. The band first played Lolla in '92, and again in '96 just before their split. Their return to its stage in 2010 — and word of an unearthed track on best-of Telephantasm — is certainly promising news for fans.
"Searching With My Good Eye Closed"
"Let Me Drown"
"Jesus Christ Pose"
"Fell on Black Days"
"Get on the Snake"
"Burden in My Hand"
"Black Hole Sun"
"Slaves & Bulldozers"
"4th of July"
"Blow Up the Outside World"