Live Review: Chris Cornell – The Wiltern, Los Angeles
Mon, 04 May 2009 11:40:56
"Since L.A. is known for mellow crowds, let's just be louder than any other show ever," exclaimed Chris Cornell, early on at his Wiltern gig.
It's a relief to see that, 20 years into his storied career, Chris Cornell still likes it loud. The Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman has one of the most powerful voices in rock n' roll history, but last night, he amped it up even more. Cornell's fire burned brighter than ever, as he offered up a two-hour plus setlist of Soundgarden classics, Audioslave favorites and personal gems.
Cornell sways and rocks like he did in the early '90s, and there's a tangible energy exuding from that long Eric Draven hair, black t-shirt and blue jeans. It's classic and timeless, but, more importantly, it still kicks ass. He's at home surrounded by a wall of distortion and a kick drum thud. "Outshined" brought the crowd back to the Singles days, but Cornell pulled it off with a modern vigor as his voice ripped through the sludgy, impervious groove. At the end of a fiery "Set It Off," his screech turned guttural, and he speared the sky with the microphone. He looked like Gerard Butler in 300, still standing and ready to kill. "Rusty Cage" kept up that primal intensity when Cornell stood on the kick drum, arms extended in a Jesus Christ pose.
"Burden In My Hand" was as painfully pleasurable and psychedelic as it's ever been. "Hunger Strike" didn't even need Eddie Vedder's croon, the elated crowd stepped in seamlessly. "Show Me How to Live" had a dance-y, sexy groove that got the crowd gyrating and bouncing. However, for all the genre and tone shifts, the one consistent was Cornell's trademark wail. His voice has codified him in the pantheon and he deserves it. Plus, he's still willing to take risks. Not only with jumping off amps but sonically on the Timbaland-produced Scream fare. The dark, apocalyptic soundscape on "Ground Zero" and bouncy "Part of Me' proved vibrant live. Then there was his grunge-i-fied, noirish take on "Billy Jean." It was smoky and dark, and it most likely would put a smile on Michael Jackson's face.
The acoustic break that followed was one of the highlights, featuring cuts like "Can't Change Me" and "Fell On Black Days." Stripped away, his voice resounded with an overpowering heft. "Seasons" followed. Beforehand, he announced, "This one's for all the fans; I'm blessing you with sweat." It was quite the anointment.
Cornell capped it off with a haunting, trippy "The Day I tried to Live" and "Black Hole Sun" combo. There was a loaded gun tension that echoed the doomsaying darkness of "Blow Up the Outside the World" earlier in the set just fine. The crowd went back to the Superunknown willingly with Cornell. It all really was louder than love.