Chris Cornell brought his solo show on the “Higher Truth” tour to Charlotte, selling out yet another venue and wowing the audience with his still-amazing voice. Naturally a softer and more gentle feel than at a Soundgarden show, but the same exemplary guitar and lyrics Cornell is known for are there.
Cornell entered the stage smiling, as he was Face-Timing with his daughter and hadn’t quite finished yet. The 2.5 hour show did not disappoint, beginning with two songs from the Higher Truth album (available in a variety of formats) before doing a little improv to North Carolina, the love of which was not lost on the audience. The show continued with a good mix of originals from Chris’s own albums along with songs from his work as Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, plus some beautiful covers – The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “A Day In The Life,” two from Bob Dylan, and an amazing cover of Metallica’s lyrics to “One” set to U2’s music of their own “One.”
See full photo gallery below.
Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” (among others) allowed some moments to display Cornell’s incredible and near-legendary almost four-octave range. Also making an appearance was “River of Deceit” by Mad Season, whose members included Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam). No Cornell solo show would be complete without one or two from the self-titled Temple of the Dog, his one-off loving tribute to his former roommate Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone – “Wooden Jesus,” a magnificent rendition of “Say Hello 2 Heaven” – and of course probably their biggest and most recognizable hit, “Hunger Strike,” which was recorded as a duet with Eddie Vedder. At the time it was made, Vedder was in the beginnings of creating what would become Pearl Jam with two former members of Mother Love Bone (Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard). If Wood hadn’t died, Mother Love Bone, fronted by the superbly talented Wood, would probably have gone on to superstardom (and Ament and Gossard would have stayed there and thus Pearl Jam would never have existed); but after his accidental death by heroin overdose in March 1990, just days before their debut album was to drop, Mother Love Bone was to be no more. The group dissolved and Cornell later created Temple of the Dog as a farewell to Wood, bringing in Seattle friends Ament and Gossard, the new guy they were working with from San Diego (Vedder), plus Mike McCready (Mad Season and then Pearl Jam) and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden (and later Pearl Jam). … Tracking those early 90s Seattle bands is like making a family tree at a huge reunion with many, many cousins who have intermarried, sometimes in bigamy, whenever humanly possible.
While I wished for a rendition of Mother Love Bone’s now most popular and fondly remembered song, “Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns,” which Chris and other artists have covered many times in memory of Andrew, he didn’t play it this show. Probably just as well as I got teary-eyed enough during “Hunger Strike” and probably would have had to make an exit during Chloe. Rest in peace, Andy. Hope you are out there still happy and making beautiful music with Layne and Kurt.
Other songs off 2015’s Higher Truth were appreciated and known – “Let Your Eyes Wander,” “Misery Chain,” and the sad and unrequited “Josephine.”
The first of several standing ovations was after Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days,” (likely due to another amazing display of Cornell’s range) with other ovations following, and none were the kind where a few people get up and the rest do it out of a sense of obligation while simultaneously feeling they’d rather stay sitting. Despite a bit of disruptive yelling from the audience (not derogatory, but thankful that Chris hadn’t cancelled his North Carolina shows due to HB2), the audience was probably nearly 100% Cornell / SG / TotD fans who knew what fortune they had by getting tickets on this tour. Not too much singing along, as is usual with an acoustic show, but when it happened, it happened for everybody there.
(After profusely thanking the audience again for their warm welcome): “Not every time but almost every time nowadays when I do interviews they’ll ask me, ‘Did you imagine that you’d be doing this in your 50s?’ and the fact is, fuck no, I did not, I did not imagine that I would ever give a shit what I was doing in my 50s. So I don’t take this for granted.”
Cornell’s voice sounds fantastic, even better than at the four Soundgarden shows I saw in 2014. He has in his own words “cleaned up his act” years ago – quit smoking, drinking, and drugs – and it shows in the pipes. He certainly has one of the technically finest and most recognizable voices in rock music and can be ranked up with Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry, Eddie Vedder, Bobby Hatfield, Robert Plant, and others. He probably could have got away without a mic if the room was slightly smaller. One tiny complaint was that the mix did not seem to be measured for speaking; it was a bit “crunchy” and sometimes hard to understand when Cornell talked. The singing vocals and instruments sounded great though. It’s possible it was just a function of where I was sitting (about the 11th row, far stage left). I suppose the board can’t be all things to all moments of a show. And of course I’d rather have the singing be clear than any talking.
(At the encore, after coming back out to the audience shouting “Chris Chris Chris” for several minutes): [laughing] You know how when you’re in a band and they start chanting one guy in the band’s name? It really fucking pisses off the rest of the band. They never like that.”
Of note was Cornell’s easy banter and comfort with the audience between songs – talking about how he swears a lot and his son – in a presumed act of rebellion (that anything Dad does is probably not cool) – doesn’t swear at all; his pre-sobriety days of being a total mess with Audioslave; and how some of the James Bond film titles like “Thunderball” and “Octopussy” are naturally cool and lend themselves to the theme song name, but the one he worked on, “Casino Royale,” does not – “That is not a fucking cool song.” So he wrote “You Know My Name” for the movie (which received a Grammy nomination and won several other awards). At other times he segued effortlessly from one song to another without comment. Before playing “Seasons” (from the soundtrack of 1992 movie “Singles”) during the encore, he spoke with emotion of singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, his good friend who died by accidental drowning in 1997. The red phone sitting on the stand next to him on stage was Buckley’s, given to him by Jeff’s mother. Cornell wrote “Wave Goodbye” on his 1999 debut solo album Euphoria Morning in Jeff’s memory.
“I loved Jeff Buckley. He was a good friend of mine. … I wouldn’t dare try to cover anything that was his … any song that anyone tries to do of Jeff’s is going to be less. And there’s nothing you can do about it. … The songs that I cover, the artists I cover in particular ways, normally it’s like ‘We’re all human’ but there are a few people throughout music history that are just a little bit special. Jeff was one of them.”
Two songs which garnered even extra applause were Soundgarden’s smash hit “Black Hole Sun” off their 1994 breakthrough and #1 Billboard ranked Superunknown, and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” which turned out pretty damn good even without Vedder’s additional vocals. Closing out the show was an ethereal and poignant “Higher Truth,” accompanied by the in-tempo claps of the whole venue, which continued along with the ambient chords of the backing track long after Cornell was gone from the stage.
Accompanying Chris on the cello, mandolin, and keyboards was Bryan Gibson, who added a beautiful and haunting layer to many of Chris’s songs, and Chris was effusive in his accolades and obvious respect for him and his talent.
The Higher Truth tour continues on 6/23 in Baltimore, with continuing dates through July 27 in Winnipeg. Get tickets and info at http://chriscornell.com/tour.
Setlist (first two unverified):
Before We Disappear
Can’t Change Me
Improv – North Carolina
‘Til the Sun Comes Back Around
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles cover)
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan cover)
Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden)
Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave)
River of Deceit (Mad Season cover)
Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog)
Blow Up the Outside World (Soundgarden)
Let Your Eyes Wander
You Know My Name
I Am the Highway (Audioslave)
Rusty Cage (Soundgarden)
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
One (Metallica’s “One” lyrics to U2’s “One” music)
A Day in the Life (Beatles cover)
I Threw It All Away (Bob Dylan cover)
Photos and article for 10 Wire Up. © 2016 Maryelle St. Clare, all rights reserved.
A chance front-row ticket to see The Pogues in 2008 led me to curiously wonder who the photographer was in the aisle, who obviously had permission to be there with her pro camera. Those few minutes of seeing this person doing a job I hadn’t really noticed before opened a picture window for me and I immediately knew, “I want to do THAT.” And that was the start. When I’m not shooting bands, I’m probably still seeing them. Rail, baby, rail. It’s an addiction. See my photography, design, and retouching at maryelle-stclare.com.