Soundgarden celebrated a birthday Thursday night in Austin, in front of a full house at the Moody Theater at ACL Live as part of the iTunes Festival at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin.
The occasion was the 20th anniversary of the band's breakthrough album, "Superunknown," released March 8, 1994, which thrust the band in to superstar/arena status and made it one of the kingpins of grunge rock.
It was the first time the band played the album in its entirety and its first-ever performance at the SXSW fest.
Their performance was solid and workmanlike, with little fanfare or chit-chat between songs. Dressed as if they were showing up for their late-night shift at the loading dock, in jeans, boots and jackets, the band bore into songs that have become legend in the annals of grunge rock.
Most of the songs were played like they were recorded, but there were subtle twists here and there, such as the prolonged instrumental during "Half." Chris Cornell, the band's lead singer, and Kim Thayil, its lead guitarist, changed guitars throughout the set, evidence of the music's varied arrangements and tunings.
The theater seemed to be a mix of die-hard fans and curious onlookers who'd never seen Soundgarden. The best-known songs aroused the loudest responses, especially "Black Hole Sun," "Spoonman," "The Day I Tried to Live" and "Fell on Black Days." Other tracks received loud ovations, like "Kickstand," which sounded especially fresh and raw, and "Mailman."
Soundgarden reportedly will announce a tour to continue the 20th anniversary celebration of "Superunknown." Thursday night's show proved the band and the music deserve the recognition.