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Chris Cornell live!

| April 18, 2007 | 2 Comments

Chris Cornell
Metro, Chicago
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CCornell

During the last decade or so, the stars of the alternative nation have engaged in what could be described as a massive game of musical chairs. And while the results — the likes of Audioslave, Zwan, and Velvet Revolver, to name a few — have arguably produced at least some worthwhile moments in their short tenures, it’s unlikely anyone would rate their accomplishments over those of Soundgarden, Rage Against The Machine, or any other ’90s predecessors.

And now that most of these short-lived side-projects and collaborations have parted ways or shut down, the alt-rockers have set to figuring out their next moves. Rage Against The Machine are set to officially reunite. An incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins are rocking worldwide but not Stateside. And Audioslave singer Chris Cornell, for the second time, has opted to take the solo route, including a preliminary tour allowing him to weave in and out of his various musical outfits from the last decade and a half.

Which is where we found him Wednesday night at Metro in support of his forthcoming solo record, appropriately titled Carry On (Suretone/Interscope). (Subtle like a bomb, Chris.) Throughout the evening, Cornell dipped into his extensive back catalog in seemingly equal amounts for each project. From the heyday of grunge, Soundgarden staples like “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage” are still impressive despite their age, but fail to deliver the same impact they most likely would have even 10 years ago in a room like Metro.

While it’s commendable Cornell still trots out alternative classics from a few bands ago, the fact remains the man is not nearly the tortured soul he once was, and it shows — most transparently during the night’s moments that most aimed at coming off as ferocious. Which raises the question, if a rocker can’t muster the angst necessary to believably battle with his demons onstage, should he be allowed to perform his angrier fare?

That’s not to suggest the night centered exclusively around Cornell’s past. Remember the scene in Wayne’s World 2, where Rip Taylor describes Jim Morrison as more of a “crooner, working in the rock milieu”? It also applies to a respectable portion of Cornell’s library, as he demonstrated during Temple Of The Dog moments like “Hunger Strike” as well as older solo material like “Can’t Change Me.”

These songs provided Cornell an outlet to demonstrate his softer and more expressive sensibilities, but they didn’t always deliver as they once had. “Hunger Strike,” in particular, seemed to miss some of the inherent sorrow and longing it originally expressed. Still, it was a treat in 2007 just to hear Temple Of The Dog songs, as up until now it would have been a safe bet songs from the one-time Soundgarden/Pearl Jam collaboration would never be heard live again.

Not surprisingly, the eras Cornell seemed most comfortable in were also his most recent: Audioslave and his solo project, both of which come the closest to straightforward alt-rock without venturing too far into any one extreme — be it tortured grunge or lighter, more sensitive fare.

Audioslave’s “Show Me How To Live” and “What You Are,” on record — and, presumably, with the members of Rage Against The Machine behind it — are searing standouts in the conventionally bland modern rock landscape. Yet onstage, they helped demonstrate one of the biggest drawbacks of the evening. That, while undeniably competent and even fairly talented, Cornell’s backing band was ultimately a glorified cover band.

To their credit, they aimed for Soundgarden’s compelling alt-rock innovations and Audioslave’s trademark bombast, and came as close as anyone outside of those bands could come. Still, throughout the years, Cornell’s former bandmates have included the likes of Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Stone Gossard, Brad Wilk, and Tom Morello. Filling in those licks, riffs, fills, and beats all these years later, for any grouping of musicians, is hardly an enviable task.

Throughout the night, Cornell kept his greatest-hits jukebox rolling, from Soundgarden’s “Burden In My Hand” and “Spoonman” to Audioslave’s “Like A Stone.” Even providing a brief acoustic interlude, which featured Temple highlight “All Night Thing,” and, for whatever reason, a puzzling version of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean.”

Ultimately, it could be argued Cornell deserves credit for still paying mind to his earlier work and dusting off classic fan favorites like “Black Hole Sun.” Too many artists desert their back catalog with each subsequent lineup shift and project change. However, the trade-off is the ever-present possibility of losing some of, pardon the pun, the original fire with each new incarnation. Still, it’s hard to argue these songs aren’t worth hearing this many years later, even with a stage of hired guns delivering them. Thankfully, the strength of Cornell’s songwriting, and indeed the songs themselves, help ensure that, no matter who’s behind the wheel, they still come across more dynamic than most modern rock artists in their prime.

— Jaime de’Medici

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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Comments (2)

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  1. Farkus Magoo says:

    Seasons was one of the highlights for me. Billy Jean was the definite low point. It was a complete abomination. Cornell still rocks though.

  2. Peter Rainey says:

    I second that. Billy Jean? OMFG!… WTF?

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