CHICAGO — You could have easily convinced outsiders that they had wandered through a time warp and that the Chicago of 2010 was actually Seattle of 1992. The streets were filled with rock kids looking for a place to hang, tattoo parlors and coffee shops filled the storefronts, and there was even a shop called Never Mind around the corner from the Vic Theatre, which was playing host to [artist id="1019"]Soundgarden[/artist] on Thursday night. Back for only their second show since they decided to get the band back together after a 13-year hiatus, Soundgarden prepared for Sunday’s Lollapalooza-closing set with a surge through their back catalog, with enough bulldozer riffs and druggy interludes to make the rapt audience forget what day it was (let alone what year).
With his long metal locks grown back to full length, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell strode easily onto the stage as though nothing had changed in the years since the band played “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” which opened the two-hour set well balanced with deep cuts and mainstream hits. Though the show was not without hiccups (hot microphones seemed to dog them all night), Soundgarden proved that their catalog of tunes has withstood the test of time. Old favorites like “Let Me Drown” and “Get on the Snake” laid out Soundgarden’s whole aesthetic: thick, burly riffs, deep rhythmic thrusts and Cornell’s towering yelp of a voice. It’s no wonder that, when combined with a killer chorus, songs like “Black Hole Sun” and “Pretty Noose” — both of which showed up in Thursday night’s set — became such gigantic mainstream rock hits.
But there are other parts of Soundgarden that have nothing to do with their radio-friendly side. Though usually thought of as the most “metal” of all the major grunge acts, Soundgarden kept as much punk-rock speed and clamor in their holster as anybody else from Seattle, and bits of that ethos kept creeping through (especially on the extra-adrenaline-packed “Rusty Cage”). There’s also no shortage of churning guitar sludge in the deeper album cuts of their catalog, and those were on display as well (best illustrated by the set-closing “Slaves and Bulldozers”).
By the time the band returned for the encore (which saw drummer Matt Cameron tease a jazzy solo while Cornell got some assistance with his guitar), the time warp was complete, and the band sent the 1,400 or so hardcores home with a trifecta of “4th of July,” “Blow Up the Outside World” and “Like Suicide.” For a group gone 13 years and only having had one show back in the saddle, they sounded impressively polished, passionate and loud — the ideal act to close out one of the biggest music festivals in the country.
Lollapalooza 2010 gets under way Friday — make sure to check out MTV News’ Lollapalooza Live, streaming Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m., right here on MTV.com. And follow all of Lollapalooza on the MTV Newsroom blog.