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Soundgarden kicked off their reunion tour in Toronto on Saturday night, 14 years after a tense breakup.
The rockers, who rose to fame during the ‘90s grunge period in music with hits including “Black Hole Sun,” broke up in 1997 after a lengthy period of internal conflict.
“Welcome to the first show of the first tour in 13, 14 years,” frontman Chris Cornell told the crowd at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, according to the Toronto Sun (the reunited band first played a couple of shows last year).
The group performed 21 songs over two hours, with Cornell even shooting video of the audience during the show.
So what did the critics have to say?
The Sun’s Jane Stevenson wrote that Cornell’s voice was in fine form, as was the rest of the group, which “played on a fairly stripped down stage save for an impressive lighting rig and the occasional video backdrop and let the music do most of the talking.”
She said the group didn’t put on “an all-out love-fest” but Cornell “seemed pretty happy for a guy who told yours truly four years ago of a Soundgarden reunion: ‘I just don’t see the scenario where it made sense.’”
She mostly gave the show high marks with the exception of one quibble.
“If there was any disappointment on Saturday night, it was that Soundgarden’s choice of songs seemed to fall into two categories — either incredibly good or largely forgettable,” she wrote.
The Toronto Globe and Mail’s Brad Wheeler mostly echoed her sentiments.
“Soundgarden is back upright, strong enough to shine on, for a little while at least,” he wrote.
He also praised all of the members of the group, noting their strengths.
“Long-haired and broodingly messianic at age 46, Cornell was up to vocal-shredding snuff on ‘Spoonman’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’” he wrote. “Guitarist Kim Thayil had his moments, leaving his flashiest work for a bluesy jam on Slaves & Bulldozers, the final of a three encore songs.
“Matt Cameron, who after Soundgarden disbanded picked up a job keeping time for fellow Seattle-scene pioneers Pearl Jam, is one for tricky rhythms. Time signatures on the thrashing blitz (or blitzing thrash?) of ‘Gun’ and others switched on the fly. Bassist Ben Shepherd, stage right, rumbled like Pompeii.”
He added that if fans were disappointed not to hear any new material – the band is working on a new album – they didn’t show it.
Reuters’ Dean Goodman noted that Soundgarden focused “mostly on the riff-laden dark material that transformed them into MTV darlings.”
As for their chemistry, “In contrast to the tense final show of their last tour in 1997, the scene on stage seemed particularly more relaxed,” he added.
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