Chris Cornell: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

Chris Cornell has always been a popular pick for lead singer of a supergroup -- hello, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave! -- and with good reason. The former Soundgarden frontman, now in mid-40s, has an ideal rock-and-roll voice: He comes from the Robert Plant school of vocalists, more banshee wailing than guttural bellowing, and possesses a set of pipes that ensures his voice is the focal point of whatever he's singing, no matter what other musical mayhem may unfold.

But maybe he gets lured into the supergroups as part of a secret plot to keep him busy so he doesn't try to make a solo album. That was one theory that came to mind as he trudged through a series of serious headscratchers from the recent "Scream." He recently told J. Freedom that the album's electro-rock sound was "two years ahead of its time" -- but it sounded more like eight years behind the times at a sold-out 9:30 club last night.

Songs such as "Part of Me" and "Time" sounded so much like Linkin Park throwaways that you half expected an Asian dude to come out from backstage and start rapping midway through each song.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

But the capacity crowd dutifully put up with the new songs -- about a dozen people even seemed to be enjoying them -- in order to hear Cornell sing some of the biggest hits from his career.

The swampy, drop-D metal of pre-breakout hits "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" was still murky and sinister in all the right ways. On the other side of the spectrum was "Spoonman" -- nothing in the performance made it any clearer why that song was such a hit in the mid-'90s. (Especially unnecessary was the drum solo by someone who was not the actual Spoonman nor had anything to do with the original writing/recording of the song.)

Other than taking the stage 45 minutes past the advertised start time, Cornell had no diva moments, which is always a worry with a still-famous, but clearly past his peak performer. Even the inevitable acoustic set didn't seem self-indulgent; people were thrilled to hear a solo take of Soundgarden hit "Fell on Black Days."

Cornell seemed genuinely moved by the audience's enthusiasm, exchanging countless fist bumps and singing set-closer "Black Hole Sun" down among the masses. Perhaps the greatest gift was giving the assembled a rare chance to sing Eddie Vedder's part in the Temple of the Dog anthem "Hunger Strike," which is on the shortlist for the title of most earnest, unironic, truly great, truly awful song of all time.


By David Malitz |  April 6, 2009; 2:18 PM ET Live Last Night
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Wow...I'm pretty sure I was at the 9:30 club last night, but I sure saw a different show than you did! I thought that the new stuff played incredibly well (no DJ, no keyboard like he had at the Projekt Revolution show last year). I think that the crowd more than dutifully put up with the new stuff--the reaction to it was extremely positive!! Just curious, where were you standing?

Posted by: mjrfuzz | April 6, 2009 3:46 PM

Hey mjrfuzz, I was standing back near the soundboard, where I stand for every show. (Come say hi!) I always make a point of looking around to gauge the crowd's enthusiasm and for most of the new songs I'd see just a few people with a fist in the air and everyone else standing there politely, while there were serious singalongs for basically every oldie. And I actually thought it was weird to use the standard rock setup for the new songs. It just made them sound even more disjointed, since that wasn't how they were composed.

Also, what was with his band members jumping up on the risers at every moment possible? I swear that bassist did it about 50 times over the course of the show. Pretty hilarious.

Posted by: PostRockDavid | April 6, 2009 5:14 PM

"Cornell had no diva moments, which is always a worry with a still-famous, but clearly past his peak performer."

Excuse me .... but WTF???? Give him a compliment while stabbing him in the back? I've been to eight shows in the past two years. I've never seen evidence of him being "clearly past his peak". What in his performance last night gave you that impression? In 2007, I think he performed in over 120 concerts ... not to include side performances at radio stations and also lengthy soundchecks. His shows this year have been running almost three hours long.

Past his prime? I doubt younger performers could keep up with him.

And the new music from Scream is great! People just can't seem to get past the fact that Timbaland produced it. Their loss!

Finally, lay off the bassist and drummer. I truly enjoy how the guys interact on stage. It's much better than watching them just stand there like a lump of clay. Cornell hand picked these guys and has toured with them for the past two years. They7 must be doing something right !!!

Posted by: warriorwoman25 | April 10, 2009 9:23 AM

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