Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chris Cornell, ASB Theatre, 5/10/11

Last night's Chris Cornell solo acoustic gig was the first concert I've been to in a while, in fact since Kyuss Lives! in May.  And it's fair to say this was a bit different to the average rock gig - a solo, (mostly) acoustic set.  And I was probably doubly looking forward to it on account of how I'll be overseas during Soundgarden's long-awaited return down under in January next year, because they chose to play the crappy festival and not the really good one that I was banking on them playing (hey - given the last few years' at Soundwave have included Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, and Jane's Addiction it seemed a safe enough bet).

Anyway, right, the gig.  Cornell started with some friendly banter, and between this and his entertaining recent appearances in Pearl Jam Twenty, I've come to realise he's a pretty cool guy, even if he was responsible for the "experiment" known as Scream, which is only even worth mentioning because it gave rise to a hilarious parody by Trent Reznor as an April Fools joke a couple of years ago.

What followed was a showcase of Cornell's solo material, various Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave tracks, and some great covers, spanning over two hours - yep, not only is his voice as amazing and unique as it always was, but he can carry a solo show for that long quite comfortably.  Hell, I don't even think the guy barely had a sip of water in that time.

It speaks volumes of the man's talent and charisma that he can almost hypnotise an audience singlehandedly.  It's incredibly easy to get lost in tracks like Finding Forever, Sunshower, and Call Me A Dog.

But I've always had a soft spot for musicians really rocking out an acoustic number, and so I especially enjoyed Mind Riot.  Cornell mentioned at one point how he sometimes hates listening to the show recordings because of some of the silly stuff he says (in his defence, he is very funny and engaging) - wonder if he'll spot the mix-up when he accidentally introduced Mind Riot as being from Louder than Love, and not Badmotorfinger.  And I only mention this because I got all excited thinking he was going to do some totally leftfield acoustic cover version of Gun or Big Dumb Sex.  Anyway, Mind Riot was great.  And so was Hunger Strike, which has always been one of my favourite Cornell tracks, and which sounded thoroughly excellent.

It struck me at one point just how few front men of the current generation of rock bands could actually pull this sort of solo show off in the way Cornell does - he can just take control of an audience with his voice, presence and musical ability.  The only others I can think of that are in the same league are Eddie Vedder and Josh Homme - and they both started in the same era.  Jerry Cantrell and Dave Grohl, possibly, though neither's singing voice is in the same league as Cornell.  Scott Weiland, if he was a bit less aloof.  There are other more fringe candidates like Neil Fallon (Clutch) and John Garcia (Kyuss), who have the ability but wouldn't pull the same crowds.  And those are all examples from bands who formed pre-2000, i.e., front men AREN'T WHAT THEY USED TO BE.

So being able to enjoy an intimate, spontaneous show with a talented guy like this is a pretty rare thing.  And especially when he pulls out some brilliant cover versions - I especially enjoyed A Day In The Life (the Beatles), a very unexpected cover of Pearl Jam's Better Man (spontaneously performed when someone yelled out "Play some Pearl Jam!"), and John Lennon's Imagine.  A few music geeks like me might have noticed that he actually rearranged Imagine into 3/4 time as opposed to Lennon's 4/4 - showing a very deft musical touch.

I was always keener on Audioslave's more rocking material and so it was a surprise to me that some of the night's highlights actually came from quieter, more reflective Audioslave tracks like I Am the Highway, Like A Stone and Doesn't Remind Me (in particular).

But for me personally, Soundgarden material was always going to be the highlight.  The brilliant Superunknown was one of the first albums I ever owned on CD, so I loved every second of Like Suicide, Fell on Black Days and Black Hole Sun.

Overall, it was a captivating show from a uniquely talented musician - who thoroughly deserved the standing ovation that he got.  Well done, that man.

Full setlist here.

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