MORRISON, Colorado — An ecstatic-looking Chris Cornell gazed over the Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Monday night and declared, "We're
Setting off the night with "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" from 1991's Badmotorfinger and the Grammy-winning "Spoonman," one of their first big hits, the recently reunited grunge gods quickly cleared any doubts about whether they still had it, even after 14 years apart. "We're doing this because of you," Cornell professed.
After the frontman encouraged the crowd to "smoke it all so you don't get busted on the way home," the band unleashed "Jesus Christ Pose," with Matt Cameron's pummeling of the drums reminding everyone that while he's served as drummer for Pearl Jam since Soundgarden's 1997 breakup, it was his work with the night's headliner that made him sought after.
The band then allowed the audience to take a breath, slowing down the already-sleepy "Blow Up the Outside World." The song's fade out had the sold-out crowd of 9,400 chanting in unison.
Cornell reveled at the venue his reformed group had taken on. "We played here before, and maybe a little bit was lost on us," he said. "It's f---ing amazing." Between songs, he coaxed attendees to shriek just for the hell of it, giving props to the amphitheater's legendary acoustics. "This big rock over here and this one over there," he said, referencing the two giant stones that flank the seating area, "it acts like a speaker, funnels down to my head. It's trippy."
The Seattle foursome revisited their breakthrough album, Superunknown, for three in row, following "The Day I Tried to Live" with "My Wave" and "Fell on Black Days." They went all the way back to their Screaming Life/Fopp EP for "Nothing to Say" and shredded eardrums with "Rusty Cage." For "Outshined," Cornell dropped his guitar in favor of a microphone stand as his temporary weapon of choice, alternately waving it and pounding it into the stage.
As seasoned bands often do, Soundgarden changed up some of their biggest hits when most fans probably would have preferred the radio version. And while Cornell shied away from some of the notes on the choruses of "Black Hole Sun" and "Pretty Noose," it seems he was saving his pipes for the set-ending fan favorite "Slaves & Bulldozers." Having admirably conquered the night's 20-plus selections, Cornell explored the heights of his iconic wail without hesitation.
The band — which released its first-ever live album, Live on the I-5, earlier this year — is currently crafting its first studio LP since 1996. Though nothing new was debuted during Monday night's hit parade, fans can be hopeful that they channel the passion they displayed for their old material into their next offering.
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