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Soundgarden revisits landmark album 'Superunknown' in first appearance at South By Southwest

SXSW 2014- Soundgarden Portrait-1.jpg

Soundgarden band members, from left, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell and Ben Shepherd, pose for a photograph at the iTunes Festival showcase during the SXSW Music Festival on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP) (The Associated Press)

Soundgarden plans to play its breakthrough album "Superunknown" front to back for the first time Thursday night during the iTunes Festival at South By Southwest. There's just one problem.

"To be honest, we haven't actually really done it yet," singer-guitarist Chris Cornell said about six hours before set time. "We're rehearsing it, but rehearsals are different. I think we did try to play it in order the other day, but then we'd stop on a song and sort of go through the different parts of it, and play it over again. So actually just going through the whole set without stopping, we've never done."

The archetypal Seattle grunge band is making its first appearance at the annual music festival and conference to launch its 20th anniversary celebration of "Superunknown," the multiplatinum album that pushed Soundgarden to an elite level after its March 8, 1994, release.

The group will release an expanded edition of the album on June 3 and plans a world tour in support. The album debuted at No. 1, sold 5 million copies in the U.S. alone on the strength of hits like "Black Hole Sun," ''Fell on Black Days" and "Spoonman" and earned the band two Grammy Awards.

It also changed everything for members Cornell, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd, and left them with a lot to process. They suddenly found themselves playing arenas all over the world and living in a realm recently occupied by hair metal bands.

"I can't say that it was not ultimately a great thing, but it was mixed blessings in a lot of ways," Cornell said. "And some of it was just the self-conscious nature of just being a group of musicians mostly from the post-punk indie scene that are now commercial, kind of almost middle of the road. ... Does that make us Poison or Whitesnake or are we The Who? It was confusing and you're at an age where that stuff kind of seems like it still maybe matters. There was a lot of that: 'Did we do something wrong?'"

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