Advertisement
  1. Archive

Review: At 98 Rockfest, Soundgarden returns to the road with a roar at Amalie Arena in Tampa

Soundgarden performed at 98 Rockfest at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 28, 2017.
Published Apr. 29, 2017

The rust of two years off the road isn't showing on Soundgarden in 2017.

Well, except for maybe a little on their sense of geography.

"In our 30 years of being a band, we actually haven't played South Florida much," Chris Cornell told the crowd Friday at 98 Rockfest at Tampa's Amalie Arena.

Tampa? South Florida? Um, not quite, and as a Miami transplant, Cornell ought to know.

But his point is valid: Soundgarden has played Tampa Bay but once over the last 25 or so years, and even that was without regular drummer Matt Cameron, off on his day grind in Pearl Jam. So their gig at 98 Rockfest, with Cameron joining Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shephard, was a heck of a long time coming.

Were the Seattle demigods the right choice to headline 98 Rockfest in this day and age? Debatable, considering how many of the 6,600-plus fans appeared to hit the exits after powerful sets by younger acts A Day to Remember and Pierce the Veil.

But Soundgarden does have the hits, and they all came from an era when rock still mattered to the mainstream, and so this night was theirs to close.

Cornell, shaking tendrils of mossy black hair form his stubbly face, unleashed his banshee's wail on a barrage of them, crunching through Spoonman, Outshined and Black Hole Sun in the first four songs (alongside relative rarity Kyle Petty, Son of Richard), and Fell On Black Days and Jesus Christ Pose later on.

With Cameron (much missed, his chops as Hall of Fame-worthy as ever) and Shepherd powering the band's signature labyrinthine rhythms, Cornell and Thayil raced through throttling cuts like Flower, The Day I Tried to Live, Been Away Too Long and All Your Lies. Cornell's grinding riffs and Thayil's wizardly solos drive slobberknockering head trips Black Hole Sun and Blow Up the Outside World, and walloping closer Beyond the Wheel shook the seats in the upper deck, drenching the arena in a mushroom cloud of distortion.

While no one questioned Soundgarden's top-of-the-poster billing, it meant they had the unenviable task of following A Day to Remember on their Central (not South) Florida home turf. Fresh off receiving the key to their hometown of Ocala, the mighty metalcore outfit proved they might well have ruled the top slot, too.

"I've been to many Bolts games right here," said singer Jeremy McKinnon, admiring the largest Tampa Bay venue they've ever played. "This is f---ing rad to play. I think I'll be here on the 6th for Tom Petty, too."

Petty might've approved of what turned out to be a mildly down-to-earth set -- cascades of confetti, toilet paper and oversized beach balls, yes, but no human hamster balls -- the group showed off its melodic side by getting the crowd singing on the pop-punky We Got This and All I Want and the emotive Have Faith and All Signs Point to Lauderdale.

"You paid good money for these seats," McKinnon said as he urged the crowd to get up and start missing. "Get your f---ing money's worth!"

Nearly stealing the show early on was shirtless, shoeless wonder Jonny Hawkins of Texas prog outfit Nothing More. Wailing and thrashing and drumming like a maniac, Hawkins led the band through a magnetic set of sci-fi-flavored shredding and pounding, from the bruising Salem to the surprisingly introspective Jenny, at one point scaling a Transformer-like electro-percussive rig like some sort of Mad Max war boy.

Nothing More wasn't an easy act to follow, but Pierce the Veil and Highly Suspect didn't back down. The former had absolutely no problem stirring up screaming moshers amd crowdsurfers, delivering deafening metalcore lightning-in-a-bottle as they blitzed around the stage like rabid bats and brought out McKinnon on Caraphernelia. The latter thundered out Grammy-nominated grooves with both a snarling dirt-metal edge and a cavalier sense of humor, mugging for a crew member filming on his phone; having the arena sing Happy Birthday to their cohort DJ Redbees; and contest-winning fans in lawn chairs.

That's one perk of 98 Rockfest -- between all the contests, meet-and-greets and free early stages, fans could get awfully up close and personal with the rock gods on stage.

Earlier, about 30 fans got into Amalie early to watch a serene Soundcheck performance by Beartooth, who during the show thrashed and cracked open circle pits from on high. Up in the Firestick Grill, A Day To Remember took part in a fan Q&A, while spaced-out prog-rockers Starset, fresh off a smoke- and synth-powered outdoor set, unplugged for a few acoustic songs for VIPs.

That outdoor pre-show, while hotter than jalapeño charcoal, gave early risers a chance to crank up the volume for free with Starset, '90s-inspired power grunge trio Dinosaur Pile-Up and Southern-tinged Floridians Loose Talk, comprised of a couple of ex-Anberlin'ers and St. Pete's Mark Etherington (Set and Setting, RedFeather, Mountain Holler) on drums.

One other gift fans took home after 10-plus hours of 98 Rockfest: A ringing in their ears, thanks to the echoes of Soundgarden's eardrum-splitting performance ringing in the rafters after midnight. Perhaps Cornell might've been right all along: They could probably hear it in South Florida, too.

-- Jay Cridlin

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden told employees Wednesday morning that health problems have forced him to step down at the end of his fifth term, in January 2021.
    After 21 years in the job, Belden plans to retire when his term ends Jan. 3, 2021
  2. Firemen and ambulance attendants remove a body from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where an explosion ripped the structure during services Sept.15,1963 . Associated Press
    Fifty-six years ago, a bomb blew apart the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four girls and injuring dozens more.
  3. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  4. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  5. Joe Walsh. [Associated Press]
  6. The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide area of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville. [Associated Press]
  7. Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor) recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a Bipartisan Congressional Veterans Advisory Board meeting at the Dunedin Public Library on Monday. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   Times]
  8. Priscilla Shirer plays high school principal Olivia Brooks in “Overcomer,” a new film from the Kendrick Brothers. Photo courtesy of Sony/Affirm Films
  9. The men who create the toys received each Christmas season by many children in Polk County are far from being unblemished elves. [Polk County Toys For Tots/Facebook]
  10. Aug. 16• Archive
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement