Chris Cornell - Live At Benaroya Hall: Review
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 10:17:34
(September 29th, 2015, Seattle WA) It was 9 p.m. sharp when Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell appeared on stage for a solo acoustic set Tuesday, September 29th at Seattle's Benaroya Hall. The concert had long been sold out, and the lucky number of those assembled offered up a sustained roar—and the requisite standing ovation—on par with the appearance, a welcome though not all that rare homecoming for one of the most iconic figures in the grunge scene that started here.
It hadn't been a year since the 51-year-old singer last performed at Benaroya. That was back in February, a guest appearance during a reunion of grunge supergroup Mad Season (comprised of surviving members Mike McCready and Barrett Martin, along with other special guests). Before that, he stopped by in 2013, on the Songbook circuit, a tour of covers and Soundgarden cuts that he eventually collected into a live album.
On this night, a stop through on his latest tour named for his recently released fifth solo album, Higher Truth, Cornell, in a gray flannel, jeans, and motorcycle boots, looked rested and undiminished by the years (with few exceptions, his voice, the strongest instrument in his repertoire, would prove the same). Flanking him were no less than seven acoustic guitars, a turntable, and an assemblage of amps and pedals. Cornell was in no hurry to rush along, exchanging high fives and handshakes with the front row. By every indication it was going to be a long evening, and it was, clocking in at an impressive three hours.
Settling in, Cornell easily bantered with the crowd, projecting the time-tested aura of a veteran rocker perfectly at ease center stage. This was in stark contrast to his occasional string (cello, mandolin) accompanist Brian Gibson, who Cornell seemed to have dragged out of the forest. (Halfway through the show, he delivered a corny joke along those lines.) His other special guest—Seattle resident McCready—was far better primed for the spotlight, stepping in for stripped down versions of Mad Season's "River of Deceit" and "Hunger Strike" by Temple of the Dog.
Other selections traced his career and then some. Cuts from Cornell's new album, like "Before We Disappear" and "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" were well received—the audience was on its feet about once every other song—but the most enthusiastic applause was reserved for Soundgarden standards like "Fell on Black Days" and "Rusty Cage" (delivered in the style of Johnny Cash), as well as Audioslave material like "I Am the Highway" and "Like a Stone."
Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and even a Sinéad O'Connor cover—"Nothing Compares 2 U"—made it into the mix, each with slight adaptations (Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'," for instance, became Cornell's post-modern version, "The Times They are A Changin' Back").
Overall, the package worked remarkably well for save for a few misses like "Black Hole Sun" and "Ave Maria" (from a Christmas album) that were ill-adapted to the stripped down set, and some attempts at looping guitar and vocals that could have been better constructed. No one, though, seemed to mind, least of all Cornell, whose inimitable vocals have endured despite the fact they've settled slightly into his lower register, making his soaring high notes a little harder to reach. Again, not a problem for Cornell, who, as artist and icon, has never had a problem going deep.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff
Buy Chris Cornell music on iTunes