Live Review: Chris Cornell — "Songbook" Acoustic Tour Los Angeles, CA
Fri, 06 May 2011 09:35:04
Chris Cornell still possesses the best voice in rock music.
However, during the second Los Angeles stop of his "Songbook" Acoustic Tour, Cornell's lyrics registered just as powerfully as his vocals did. The Soundgarden frontman tells stories that arise from somewhere between Neil Young's revolutionary everyman tales and John Lennon's psychedelic marvel. Couple that lyrical vision with an unbreakable voice, and you've got the perfect concert.
Over the course of two hours, he delivered every single poetic line with an unmatched power and prowess. He stripped down Audioslave's "Be Yourself" into a folky anthem, accentuating every single guitar strum. The chorus swirled around the outdoor amphitheater reaching the clear night sky on the wings of Cornell's vocals. His masterful songwriting shone through as the words locked in with the vibrant acoustics.
"Can't Change Me" became a timeless anthem on stage. Cornell paused to breathe just before belting out the eternal refrain, "She's going to change the world, but she can't change me". After the song, he smiled through his long black hair surveying the transfixed audience.
He pulled out his catchy cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" from Carry On. Strumming through the song's dramatic verse with true swagger, Cornell seamlessly made the venue feel like a noir-ish smoky jazz club, dictating the atmosphere with his voice and performance. Before a transcendent "Fell On Black Days," he exclaimed, "This is an amazing place to play."
Cheers abounded and Cornell further joked after, "I drift, but I try to keep it together."
He held "Fell on Black Days" together flawlessly, even delivering the eerie lead on his acoustic guitar without missing a note. The song gave way to another of the evening's standouts, "Burden In My Hand." As Cornell sang, "Follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are," the words resounded overpoweringly in between the forested Hollywood Hills setting. He not only led the crowd, but rock 'n' roll as an art form itself.
His Euphoria Morning collaborator and musical genius Alain Johannes [Queens of the Stone Age, Eleven, Them Crooked Vultures] guested during "Preaching the End of the World." Johannes infused a magical organic hue to the tune with his mindblowing cigar box guitar playing. Together, Cornell and Johannes conjured a touching rendition of the tune like the two legendary sonic wizards that they are.
Afterwards, Cornell smiled again, "Guys like Alain and I start singing to records. Now, I make my own records."
Cornell has never lost that youthful sense of wonder that inspired him to pick up a guitar in the first place, and that's why he can entrance like no other. For "When I'm Down," Cornell played a vinyl of Natasha Shneider's gorgeously haunting piano track as he sang alone sans guitar. It was an elegant tribute as his voice fell into the warm rapture of Shneider's hypnotic melody.
In an evening of highlights, "Seasons" illuminated everything so immortal about Cornell's music. The haunting lyrics, "Dreams have never been the answer and dreams have never made my bed" pristinely floated into the psyche as the lilting acoustic melody emanated raw emotion. Cornell's son Chris Jr. joined him on stage for the song. Connecting two generations the words, "I'm left behind as the seasons roll on by" felt all the more impactful.
After relaying stories about the Badmotorfinger recording sessions, Cornell armed himself with a Fender Telecaster for an explosive "Mind Riot." The song vaulted from airy darkness into another stadium-filling refrain. Meanwhile, his cover of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" drew parallels to him and the legends via the diversity characteristic of both.
"Like a Stone" lived on as one of the best songs about death ever committed to tape. However, it was on Superunknown's "Black Hole Sun", which might as well be his "Stairway to Heaven", that he rose to supremacy like never before.
This "Songbook" is open and it's worth reading again and again because the author is one of the most important artists to ever walk the face of the earth.
Were you there? What's your favorite Chris Cornell song?
Photo: Don Van Cleave