JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

January 30, 2013
Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL USA
Review by Lisa Lipp
Photos by Ralf Lipp


Breaking up, as singer Neil Sedaka so eloquently stated, is hard to do. Getting back together is even tougher, especially if you were a successfully group that went its separate ways when you were in your rock and roll prime.

Internal conflicts had ripped Soundgarden's Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd, Matt Cameron and Chris Cornell apart at the seams in 1997. The only choice the four musicians had was to walk away. But as the old adage goes, ‘time heals old wounds.' In 2010, the past had been completely forgotten. The music business that had jaded the band into submission had completely changed. Labels no longer held the keys to the kingdom. A group's destiny was in its own hands. Thirteen years after saying goodbye, with a simple unassuming Tweet, Soundgarden said hello again.

If you attended both nights of the group's stand at the historic Riviera, you were literally in Soundgarden heaven. Of the 51 songs the band played during their run, only ten songs were repeated. The set lists were performed in complete random order making it even more exciting for fans. Touring behind their first studio release in sixteen years, King Animal, the band managed to play ten cuts off this excellent release by cleverly selecting various songs for both nights. If you didn't walk away from this nearly three-hour show in total awe, then you had something seriously wrong with you. Both shows were simply amazing musical spectacles to behold.

Here's a little secret for all of you planning to attend any Soundgarden show on this winter tour the band is currently on. Set lists are determined the day of the show. Expect the unexpected. Deep cuts, new cuts, hit cuts, really old cuts, hell let's cut to the chase. All material from the group's 25-year old catalogue is fair game, and for that, you should be thankful. Even if you're a self-professed Soundgarden snob, you found delight in the aural ecstasy that emitted off the Riviera stage.

For the Chicago shows, the sold-out crowds heard material going all the way back to the band's 1987 Screaming Life EP ("Hunted Down" both nights, and the surprising "Nothing To Say" the first only). The second night audience was treated to the band's hit single off the Avenger's movie soundtrack, "Live to Rise." It made up for "Black Hole Sun" being omitted after its previous night's performance. But let me say this again. I don't care how much of Soundgarden fan you claim to be, there's just no way you could walk away from any of these epic shows and not be completely satisfied.

Vocalist Chris Cornell has one of the most recognizable and distinct voices in rock today. It sounded incredible both nights and literally got stronger as the evening went on. Guitarist Kim Thayil was also spot on with his fret board wizardry. One of the most underrated guitarists in music today, Thayil commanded the stage with his instrument. You couldn't help but admire the counterpoint his guitar work brought to Cornell's voice on all the songs. And seriously, there's nothing you could say but bravo to the rhythm section of bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron.

I don't care if you're 50 years old or just turned 20, a Soundgarden concert should be included on any type of "must see item" on your rock and roll bucket list. The reason is simple. This is what a true rock band looks and sounds like. The group is fronted by a singer whose iconic voice instantly stamps the music. The guitarist, though not a household name, is a magician with his instrument who considers extended solos to be annoying and self-indulgent. And then there's the rhythm section which is simply one of the best in the business today.

One of the joys, and there were many, of watching this show in a very packed house, was the fact you knew Soundgarden was going to dazzle you with music, and not a light show. There would be no half-ass flames shot into the air sending a heat wave into the crowd, nor was there going to be a barrage of videos behind the band to distract the audience from what was happening on stage. This band likes to make loud noises, and they do it with workmanlike efficiency. Most important, their brand of rock will never be confused with Bon Jovi.

Soundgarden didn't get back together for the money. Chris Cornell was on record stating that if this band ever reunited, they all had to personally want to play music together with one another. Again, with the release of the outstanding King Animal - and this is an album that will grow on you if you give it a chance - you can tell this band is in love with playing music again, and with each other. Kim Thayil once described Soundgarden as sex and drugs and rock and roll without the sex and drugs. Never have truer words been spoken.

Setlist January 29th
Been Away Too Long
My Wave
Worse Dreams
Room a Thousand Years Wide
Jesus Christ Pose
Non-State Actor
Drawing Flies
Hunted Down
Loud Love
Big Dumb Sex
Blow Up the Outside World
Fell on Black Days
Tighter & Tighter
Burden in My Hand
A Thousand Days Before
Fresh Tendrils
Nothing to Say
Black Hole Sun
4th of July
Encore: Outshined
Encore: Rusty Cage
Encore: By Crooked Steps
Encore: Incessant Mace

Setlist January 30th
Searching With My Good Eye
Jesus Christ Pose
By Crooked Steps
Away Too Long
The Day I Tried to Live
Blow Up Outside World
Fell on Black Days
Halfway There
Live to Rise
Eyelid’s Mouth
Ugly Truth
Non-State Actor
Blood on Valley Floor
Burden in My Hand
Hunted Down
Encore: Mailman
Encore: Dusty
Encore: Rusty Cage
Encore: Slaves & Bulldozers