Soundgarden at the Orpheum Theatre, 2/2/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Steve Cohen

An Evening With Soundgarden
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis
February 2, 2013

In their first Twin Cities appearance in 19 years, Soundgarden aggressively turned back the clock on Saturday night at a sold-out Orpheum Theatre. The grunge veterans treated the boisterous, well-lubricated crowd to the restless sounds of their unsettled origins during a spirited 2 1/4 hour performance. Their scorching 26-song set surprisingly dug deep into their classic early material, especially during the show's raucous start, and the four new songs on offer from the recently released King Animal (their first studio album since 1996's Down on the Upside) fit in pretty seamlessly alongside their older work.

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As the curtain rose at long last on a Soundgarden show in Minnesota, the quartet launched into a slow-burning oldie straight from the start, easily winning over longtime fans with a dark, moody take on "Incessant Mace," from their 1988 debut full-length Ultramega OK. The slow, restrained live reworking of the classic track contained musical elements of the far more familiar "New Damage," but the song and the band gradually caught fire. Frontman Chris Cornell paced around restlessly before perching himself on top of the monitors lining the front of the stage as the mercurial older number truly took flight.

"Minneapolis, how are you feeling? It's been a long time, too long," Cornell said, before introducing the next shocking number, "This is from our first EP with Sub Pop," as the band tore into the sludgy brutality of Screaming Life's lead-off track, "Hunted Down." After the number drew to a fitful close, Cornell asked drummer Matt Cameron how long it truly has been since the band played Minneapolis, with the band mistakenly thinking it was all the way back in 1992 before the crowd corrected them that it was '94.

Photos By Steve Cohen

"It's been too fucking long, that's how fucking long it's been," Cornell said emphatically, before addressing the wintry snow falling outside. "What a quintessentially beautiful Minneapolis/St. Paul evening for us to come back here. It's exactly as I'd hoped it would be out there. It's fucking beautiful." And with that, guitarist Kim Thayil led the guys through a storming rendition of "Flower."

"Outshined" quickly gave the younger fans an anthem to sing along to, especially on the "Looking California, but feeling Minnesota" line, which Cornell used to warmly bond with the supportive crowd. It was a triumphant moment, with Cornell nailing all of the notes before taking a well-earned deep bow as the fiery song drew to a close. Chris stripped down to a white T-shirt and strapped on a guitar for a hard-charging run through of "Let Me Drown," as the Badmotorfinger logo flashed on a giant screen behind the band (a bit odd, since the track is on Superunknown). It was a loose rendition and far from technically perfect, causing Ben Shepherd to laugh uproariously at one point.

Cornell snuck in a couple subtle lines from "Jesus Loves Me" before the group really caught fire on a blistering rendition of "Jesus Christ Pose," which took on a punkish, breathless urgency and was one of the night's clear highlights. "We're going to do one more older one before we play you a new song," Cornell explained before the group dusted off a simmering, punishing take on the Louder Than Love standout, "Gun," which gradually built to an untamed squall that featured Shepherd and Cornell locking in on their wild discord.

Photo By Steve Cohen

New song "By Crooked Steps" had a lot to live up to, coming as it did after all those volatile early songs, and the blustery track fit seamlessly within the band's explosive start. A plodding, indecisive version of "Rhinosaur" was the only misstep at the beginning of the set, but the band quickly remedied that with a dynamic, impassioned rendition of "Hands All Over" really set the regal theatre off. It was 45-minutes into the show, and the group had only played one new song.

Cornell addressed how "Hands All Over" was written before environmentalism became fashionable, and that "Gun" was written when Reagan was president, before the band brought us boldly into the here and now with a forceful take on their new single, "Been Away Too Long," complete with ominous wintry scenes on the screen behind them that looked an awful lot like the city did that night. A hypnotic, expansive take on "My Wave" quickly followed, and found the band locked into a mesmerizing groove at the end.

A desolate image of an abandoned country cross at a long-forgotten burial site complimented the moody desolation of "The Day I Tried To Live," after which the crowd roared their appreciation. "Thank you very much," Cornell muttered before catching himself on his slight, Elvis-like drawl. "That was kind of Memphis of me, wasn't it? I'm from the Pacific Northwest, so if that happens it's entirely an accident." The show continued down a dark, introspective path, as forlorn but still stirring versions of "Blow Up the Outside World," "Fell On Black Days," and "Zero Chance" all brought a gloomy edge to the performance.

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