It was like a 2 ½-hour thunderclap.
It was heavy. It was loud. It shook the very ground.
It was Soundgarden.
The veteran Seattle act, which alongside Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam defined the grunge sound for the first half of the 1990s, proved it still has what it takes to rock the house on Tuesday at the Fox Theater in Oakland.
That was not a surprise. What we saw at the Fox was pretty much the same as what fans witnessed in mid-2011 at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, after Soundgarden had reunited from more than a decadelong break.
The biggest difference this time around was that the show wasn't simply a nostalgic ride. Soundgarden is now touring in support of a new album, last year's "King Animal," its first studio platter since 1996's "Down on the Upside."
The hard-rocking quartet opened the show -- the first half of a two-night sold-out engagement at the lovely downtown Oakland venue -- with a nice showcase of the new material. Four of the first five songs played -- "Worse Dreams," "Been Away Too Long," "By Crooked Steps" and "Attrition" -- all hail from "King Animal."
Most of the capacity crowd probably came to hear the signature grunge-rock anthems from the '90s. Yet these new songs stood up surprisingly well to the classics. Indeed, everything Soundgarden played fit like pieces of a puzzle. That's probably because, unlike some bands that have been around for decades, Soundgarden
Singer/frontman Chris Cornell, at 48, still looks like the young wild child fans fell in love with in the first place. Indeed, his hair doesn't seem to have aged one bit over the years.
The same can't exactly be said for his voice. Cornell is one of rock's great screamers, right up there with The Who's Roger Daltrey and Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh, and there is a price to be paid for that. His voice was strong throughout the first half of the show, but it began to falter in the second half. By the time he got around to "Black Hole Sun," in the lengthy encore, Cornell had little left and simply had to coast.
The rest of the band was a powerhouse, nailing each and every tune with a sledgehammer. Kim Thayil, who, technically speaking, is the only original member besides Cornell left in the band, remains one of the heaviest metal guitarists in the business. He's not the flashiest player out there, but there's an uncanny thickness to his sound that is as much a part of the Soundgarden signature as Cornell's snarls and growls.
The band's other two longtime members -- drummer Matt Cameron, who also holds down a job in Pearl Jam, and bassist Ben Shepherd -- helped set an appropriately dark and foreboding mood throughout the evening, combining to create steady rhythms that shook hard enough to nearly untie shoelaces.
Although the show did feel overly long at times, its last third was an absolute pleasure, as Soundgarden revisited such fan favorites as "Black Hole Sun," "Fell on Black Days," "Rusty Cage," "Like Suicide" and "Superunknown."
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.
To see a slideshow of Tuesday's concert, go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.