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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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The Pioneer

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Soundgarden Makes Long-Awaited Return

Frontman Chris Cornell during one of his legendary riffs at the Bill Graham Civic auditorium July 21.

Alternative rock band Soundgarden made a profound comeback July 21 in San Francisco after a 14 year break-up and hiatus, and the crowd couldn’t have been more excited.

Fans crowded the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to see the iconic heaviest hitters in grunge as they played 24 of their most influential, heavy and unique songs for 140 minutes of head banging rock.

Even after 14 years, it was obvious that still, no one sounds quite like Soundgarden.

“We’re back,” said lead vocalist Chris Cornell after the first set to an energized 8,000 pair of ears. “We’re back because of you guys, so thanks.”

As one of the bands to form out of Seattle’s grunge scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Soundgarden represents an era when music was heavily expressive in terms of angst and an emotional disconnect with mainstream society through an aggressive metal sound.

As one of the early pioneers of grunge, along with fellow Seattle groups Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden stands out with their unorthodox and wild time signatures, D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, pounding riffs and detours into psychedelia, all the while pertaining to commanding, dark existentialist lyricism, whose songs have served as poignant ballads for youth since their skyrocket to fame in 1994.

Yet, with all their musical intelligence and versatility, the group’s key sonic signature is front-man Chris Cornell, whose spine-trembling wail and wide vocal range sounded just as good, if not better Thursday night as their last tour 14 years previous, proving that Soundgarden’s still got it.

As the band walked onstage in the Bay Area for the first time since 1996 and lurched into the “Badmotorfinger” cut “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” and then straight into Grammy award winning ‘Spoonman’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’ the Soundgarden that fans remembered was back.

“At Soundgarden concert! Proof that even though we’re parents now, we can still rock,” tweeted one fan, exemplifying the presence Soundgarden has had since their beginnings in 1984, now bringing their fans into the new millennium.

The band kept the crowd engaged with one heavy riff after another, with guitarist Kim Thayil’s legendary criss-crossing techniques, punishing hits of drummer Matt Cameron, bassist Ben Shepherd’s precise notes and Cornell’s emotional connection to his music.

Cornell’s eerie chops came through as he belted out to “Fell on Black Days,” “Outshined,” and “Room a Thousand Years Wide,” among others, using the mic-in-the-crowd trick with “Blow Up the Outside World.”

But the most powerful moment Thursday night occurred mid-way during the song that sprung the group into mainstream success and popularity, “Black Hole Sun,” a song ranked by VH1 as one of the greatest hard rock songs of all times, peaked at number one in 1994 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and number two on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

With it, all the crowd surfing, aggressive pushing and wild fan antics was calmed, as the song which claims “times are gone for honest men,” put the crowd in a trance, as Cornell’s mystifying voice reminded Soundgarden fans why they came in the first place.

“You play awesome music,” shouted one fan after Cornell finished “Black Hole Sun,” and the night ended just as it began, stunning and energizing for fans to know that Soundgarden was back.

Soundgarden is currently in the production stage for their new album, as Cornell told Australia’s Beat magazine that fans can expect a new sound and new feel.

“What we do always feels new. We never repeated ourselves, ever,” said Cornell. “If anything was too reminiscent of something else we’d done, we wouldn’t bother spending time on it.”

Towards the end Thursday night, Cornell announced that they were going to play a new song, which oddly enough sounded a lot like their pre-1994 music, heavier, head-banging and grunge style and a lot less like their “Superunknown” fame music which delved more into pop sounds without losing their rock and roll cool.

Yet, Soundgarden did not disappoint fans, as they received multiple encores proving that fans want more, as a new album and successful tour gives fans hope that Soundgarden is here to stay.

In the end one thing was clear, head banging never felt so good.

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California State University East Bay
Soundgarden Makes Long-Awaited Return