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Grunge legends Soundgarden take no prisoners and rock Penn’s Landing Festival Pier

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Being a drummer as well as a teenager during the grunge era of the 90’s, it’s safe to say that Soundgarden has been on my musical radar for quite some time.Grunge legends Soundgarden take no prisoners and rock Penn’s Landing Festival Pier. Photo: Aileen Bannon
 
I can’t tell you how sad  it was in the Spring of 1997, when I went from watching Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on MTV after class at St. Joe’s to witnessing the transformation of Spice Girls and Puff Daddy videos (I think that’s what they called him at that time).

And to put the cherry on top of everything, Soundgarden broke up soon after.

Black days indeed (I couldn’t resist that one).

So when I awoke on New Year’s Day 2010 to learn that the most talented grunge band of that era had reformed, needless to say my hangover suddenly wasn’t so bad.

The band has been toying around in the studio (more on that later) and playing festivals since last year’s reconciliation, so it was only a matter of time before the band returned to Philly (their last visit was November 1996 at the Electric Factory). And the standing only sell-out crowd at Penn’s Landing's Festival Pier (with strong support from opening act The Mars Volta) did not go home disappointed.

That’s actually an understatement. Soundgarden rocked SO hard and SO loud (I will be deaf for the next week) and were SO tight they would have blown me out of the water if I were any closer to the Delaware River. A non-stop barrage of high energy rockers permeated the set, and the band took them on with reckless abandon. Moreover, I crossed a very important band off my concert bucket list.

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Any questions of whether frontman Chris Cornell’s voice could hold up after a decade and a half away from the band (although he sang some of these songs touring with Audioslave and solo treks) were quickly dispelled with show openers ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’ and ‘Spoonman’Not to be lost in the mix was guitarist Kim Thayil, who riffed away on ‘Fell On Black Days,’ and shredded on ‘Ugly Truth’ and ‘Beyond the Wheel.’ Photo: Aileen Bannon (with bassist Ben Shepherd providing background vocals while playing an absolutely nasty bass groove). In fact, Cornell may have sounded even better than before, seeming to have reached several octaves with his trademark falsetto.

While Cornell also shined on ‘The Day I Tried to Live,’ ‘Outshined,’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’  it was drummer Matt Cameron (taking a break from Pearl Jam) who stole the show during the latter song with his finest performance of the evening. Tracks like ‘Pose’ exemplify why Cameron was the premiere drummer to come out of the Seattle scene (sorry Dave Grohl).

Not to be lost in the mix was guitarist Kim Thayil, (right) who riffed away on ‘Fell On Black Days,’ and shredded on ‘Ugly Truth’ and ‘Beyond the Wheel.’

If it seems like I’m bowing at the altar of Soundgarden’s musicianship, you would be correct, and for good reason. All four members are practically musical prodigies (just TRY covering a Soundgarden song) and regularly contributed lyrics as well as music for their albums. They might have not been the biggest selling grunge band, but musically they are considered the best.

Although the show seemed to lose some steam with FM rock staples ‘Black Hole Sun’ (arguably the band’s most well-known song) and ‘Burden in My Hand,’ the set gained momentum back in time for set closer ‘Superunknown’ and encore closer ‘Slaves and Bulldozers,’ in which all four members left the stage with the echos of Thayil’s guitar still blarring over the sound system.

And with a new album slated for release next year, it seems that Soundgarden’s music will be blaring for quite some time.

Setlist:

Searching With My Good Eye Closed
Spoonman
Let Me Drown
Room a Thousand Years Wide
Jesus Christ Pose
Blow Up the Outside World
The Day I Tried to Live
My Wave
Fell On Black Days
Hunted Down
Ugly Truth
Outshined
Rusty Cage
Black Hole Sun
Burden in My Hand
Pretty Noose
4th of July
Superunknown

ENCORE:

Beyond the Wheel
Mailman
Like Suicide
Slaves and Bulldozers

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Excellent photos by Aileen Bannon

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