Returning to the Paramount Theatre for the first time in many years, Soundgarden received a thunderous welcome from hometown fans Thursday night — as well as a surprise visit from a member of Pearl Jam.
“Been Away Too Long,” a song from the Seattle rock band’s new album, “King Animal,” offered the perfect catchphrase for a concert that drew a capacity crowd of exuberant, longtime fans. It was the first of two Seattle shows; the second was Friday night, also at the Paramount.
“Sorry it’s been as long as it has,” singer-guitarist Chris Cornell said almost matter-of-factly at the beginning of the two-hour show, which started a half-hour late, but featured more than two dozen songs. There was no opening act.
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In addition to Cornell, the reunited band featured Kim Thayil on lead guitar, Ben Shepherd on bass and Matt Cameron on drums (Cameron’s son Ray also sat in on a song, to the crowd’s surprise).
Soundgarden was an integral part of the Seattle rock scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, forging a sound that helped draw worldwide attention to the city and its music. At the Paramount, the band was as exciting as it was a generation ago, despite a few gray hairs marking the passage of time.
The electrifying evening was highlighted by Cornell’s howling vocals and Thayil’s raucous guitar playing. The first hour of the show, which opened with “Flower” from the group’s debut 1988 album, “Ultramega OK,” featured such songs as “Outshined,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Spoonman,” “Rhinosaur” and “Taree,” a haunting song from the new album.
Things really got interesting when Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined the band for the powerful “Tighter and Tighter,” which featured a lead-guitar duel between McCready and Thayil. Concertgoers hoisted their smartphones to capture the moment on camera. It was a YouTube moment.
On the main floor, sound quality varied from very good (near the front of the stage) to poor (at the rear, underneath the balcony). A huge screen behind the stage displayed surreal and colorful videos.
The latter half of the show featured “Hunted Down,” “Blow Up the Outside” and “Fell on Black Days,” as well as “Live to Rise” from “The Avengers” soundtrack. One of the more intense songs of the set was “Ty Cobb,” performed under bright, overhead lighting — like that in a baseball stadium.
The main set closed with “Rowing,” a dirgelike song from the new album that conveyed a sense of foreboding (and featured an ominous forest-fire video).
Soundgarden finished with a short, two-song encore of “Rusty Cage” and “Beyond the Wheel,” leaving fans hungering for a little bit more.
Gene Stout: firstname.lastname@example.org