All work copyright Adam R. Harrison.

Concert Review: Soundgarden at Phoenix Concert Theatre

November 2012, Aesthetic Magazine

For more than a decade we referred to Soundgarden only in the past tense. Recently however, we’ve been hearing plenty from the legendary Seattle grunge band. Earlier in the year, they released a first-rate single “Live to Rise” for the hit film, The Avengers, followed this past week by their first full length album in 16-years, King Animal. They’re currently doing a string of pre-tour promotional shows in small clubs. Lucky for us, one of those shows included a stop at Toronto’s own Phoenix Concert Theatre last night.

The house was packed with 1,100 ecstatic fans; all aware of how privileged the occasion to witness the ‘90s legends in this intimate venue. The band received a vast welcoming cheer as they opened  the 120-minute set with “Flower” from their 1988 debut album Ultramega OK. They followed on strong with two crowd pleasers, “Outshined” and “Spoonman,” one of Soundgarden’s massive hits from their 1994 smash album Superunknown.

 

Front man and lead singer Chris Cornell, who has spent the better part of Soundgarden’s 12-year hiatus working as a solo artist and with the band Audioslave, was in top form. Cornell is one of the most renowned rock singers of his era, with a uniquely haunting voice and celebrated for having strong live performances. He is a chronicle of a rock star and has a presence that is unignorable. In Soundgarden, his backup ain't so bad either. Ben Shepherd gearing bass, Kim Thayil tearing up the lead guitar, and the amazing Matt Cameron, who splits his time with fellow

Chris Cornell - Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto - November, 2012 - Adam R. Harrison

Photos and excerpts as published in Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons to King Animal

The love between Toronto and Soundgarden must be mutual, as the band kicked off their reunion tour here in 2010, Cornell recorded part of his live solo album at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts last year, and the Seattle quartet will be back in January to do two more shows at the Sound Academy, another small venue. I wonder if they know how cold it will be then?

Seattle grunge connoisseurs, Pearl Jam, is on the drum kit. Despite their differences, Soundgarden have been able to burry the hatchet and play like a well-oiled band, just as if it were still 1994.

Considering the timing of this promotional gig, the band took the opportunity to play a good collection of new material and a mix of tracks they don't routinely get to jam out at their stadium shows. Of course with a band like Soundgarden, who’s sound has changed several times over the years, every fan has their favourite era. There was plenty of variety in the show, and a little spice for everyone. The second half of the set consisted mostly of fan favourites such as “Blow Up the Outside World,” “The Day I Tried to Live,” “Burden in My Hand,” and “Rusty Cage.” Stand out songs from King Animal included the first single “Been Away Too Long” and “By Crooked Steps.” The new tracks, some of which received their live debuts, managed to stand-up against the decades-old tracks that defined a generation of plaid-wearing greasers.

 

It wasn’t until the encore we got to hear Soundgarden’s most widely known hit “Black Hole Sun,” a song Cornell has played live with three different bands. A couple classics that were left off the set list were “Fell on Black Days” and “Jesus Christ Pose.” It was also surprising not to hear “Live to Rise” and “Black Rain,” which was released on a retrospective album two years ago around the time of their reunion tour. The night would end the same way it began, with a song from the debut album, “Incessant Mace”.

 

This concert was a rare treat to see a hall-of-fame-bound band, that headline venues of 20,000, in an intimate setting. A show that every audience member will remember and boast about attending for years to come. The best thing is, we can live it again in January!

Kim Thayil - Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto - November, 2012 - Adam R. Harrison