Soundgarden At The Fonda Theatre

  • Chris Cornell
    Photo: The Recording Academy
  • Kim Thayil
    Photo: The Recording Academy

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By Crystal Larsen
Los Angeles

The sea of flannel shirts, ripped jeans and Chris Cornell-inspired long locks made it clear a bevy of grunge rock fans were eagerly awaiting the return of one of the subgenre's most celebrated exports: Soundgarden. Touring in support of their latest release, and first studio set in 16 years, King Animal, the band's return to Southern California was greeted by a sold-out crowd at the Fonda Theatre on Nov. 27. If there was one sentiment echoed throughout the night by both the band and the fans it was that the band has "been away too long."

The fans roared like king and queen animals as Soundgarden erupted onto the stage at approximately 9 p.m. to the pounding beat of "Jesus Christ Pose" from 1991's GRAMMY-nominated Badmotorfinger. Guitarist Kim Thayil settled into a winding groove as Cornell hit the ground running and reacquainted us all with his gutsy wail before transitioning into the murky metal-tinged "Flower" from 1988's GRAMMY-nominated Ultramega OK. Though the crowd was more than satisfied that the first four spots in the set were filled by classic Soundgarden material, including the Best Metal Performance GRAMMY-winning "Spoonman," they welcomed new songs like a breath of fresh air.

"Attrition," my personal favorite, was the first performance of the night from King Animal. Written by bassist Ben Shepherd, the song highlighted the contrasting guitar styles of Thayil and Cornell. Other cuts performed from the new album were the heavy "By Crooked Steps," which was written by Shepherd, Thayil and drummer Matt Cameron (whose 50th birthday was also celebrated last night) and displays the classic Soundgarden vibe; "Non-State Actor," which highlighted Cornell's still-impressive vocal range; and the appropriately titled "Been Away Too Long," which Cornell describes as being an autobiographical "look back at history in a strange atmospheric way."

While the majority of their 25-song set was filled with crunchy riffs, screaming vocals and speedy fretwork in familiar Soundgarden style, such as on the highly anticipated delivery of "Fell On Black Days," the band also showed their  dynamic side with the new "Eyelid's Mouth," which was set by a light-handed drum beat by Cameron, and the yearning "Blow Up The Outside Of The World" from 1996's Down On The Upside. On the latter song Cornell wailed "I've given everything I could," words that couldn't have been more true on this night.

The band closed with a three-song encore that included the GRAMMY-winning "Black Hole Sun" and "Slaves & Bulldozers." As reverb from the final song of the night rang through the venue, the band left without a proper goodbye as hundreds of pleased fans likely stood wondering, "How could I know/That this would be my fate?"

Set List
"Jesus Christ Pose"
"By Crooked Steps"
"Non-State Actor"
"Get On The Snake"
"Blow Up The Outside World"
"Eyelid's Mouth"
"Ugly Truth"
"Fell On Black Days"
"Been Away Too Long"
"Worse Dreams"
"My Wave"
"Burden In My Hand"
"A Thousand Days Before"
"Rusty Cage"
"Bones Of Birds"
"Incessant Mace"
"Black Hole Sun"
"Slaves & Bulldozers"

To catch Soundgarden in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

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