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LIVE: CHRIS CORNELL SOLO – Perth, 8 December, 2015

| 11 December 2015 | Reply

LIVE: CHRIS CORNELL SOLO – Perth, 8 December, 2015
Perth Concert Hall, Tuesday, 8 December, 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Maree King

Chris Cornell live Perth 8 Dec 2015 by Maree King  (3)

Over his more-than-30 year career Chris Cornell has covered a lot of ground: he’s travelled through six studio albums with Soundgarden, taking them to the upper echelons of the grunge wave, helmed the Temple Of The Dog one-off grunge-star project in memory of late friend Andrew Wood, made three albums as Audioslave with ¾ of the fractious Rage Against The Machine, and forged a solo career from early acoustic tracks on the Singles movie soundtrack through four intriguing, often enigmatic, and always different solo albums.

To pull all that together – not to mention feeding from a diverse pool of his favourite cover versions – Cornell has undertaken the bravest tour of all: the (mostly) solo singer/songwriter show, and it simply doesn’t get more stripped back – nor more honest, raw and revealing than this.

It’s entirely befitting the reputation, talent and charisma of the man that over the course of a two-and-a-half hour show he owns the night so absolutely, making these songs – often heavy, grungey rock in their original incarnations – completely work with just his near-four-octave voice and guitar, and occasionally a cello, mandolin accompaniment.

He’s far from naked on the old-school-classy Concert Hall stage – a place he later surveys with awe, asserting that it’s a long way from “dressing rooms with squirting dicks drawn on the walls,” like many of his earlier gig venues – dressed down in a t-shirt, denim jeans, biker boots and sunnies (which only come off after the third song – the standard limit for media photographers… coincidence, or something more sinister?), Cornell is surrounded by at least eight guitars, a cello and mandolin, a keyboard and a couple of stools, and in a stroke of quirky genius, what looks to be an old fashioned red telephone on a low table, and a record player atop a cabinet of vinyl albums, from which he lifts the needle as he walks out.

He starts, fittingly, with a track from his latest album, Higher Truth (Before We Disappear), one from his first solo record, 1999’s Euphoria Morning (Can’t Change Me), and one which was a hidden number on this third, 2009’s Scream – 2 Drink Minimum – here renamed As Hope & Promises Fade, as per the version on his recent acoustic live album, Songbook.

What follows is a veritable cavalcade of awesome that touches on all facets of his body of work.

There are more solo songs: Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart (one of a dozen songs featuring Brian Gibson playing masterful mandolin or cello), the Bond theme You Know My Name, the hauntingly beautiful protest song from movie 12 Years A Slave, Misery Chain (which Cornell sang sans guitar, whilst his record player spun the backing track behind him), the excellent Worried Moon from the new album.

Chris Cornell live Perth 8 Dec 2015 by Maree King  (8)

Audioslave and Soundgarden tracks are received with awe and wonder in this new format: Doesn’t Remind Me (written whilst divorcing his first wife, and he will reference that process again before the night is done) and a magnificent I Am The Highway from the former, a mesmeric Fell On Black Days, The Day I Tried To Live, Blow Up The Outside World (when stripped so far back like this it seems obviously a plaintiff cry for help, and as he kneels down and loops acoustic chords and yelps, it shines a whole new dimension on The ‘Garden’s sometimes trance-like riffing) and a mighty Black Hole Sun (with Gibson playing post-apocalyptic cello) from the latter. Cornell’s acoustic version of Soundgarden favourite Rusty Cage was a special highlight, referencing not only his new arrangement of the grunge classic, but also Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin-overseen stripped back cover. The fact he did a cover of someone doing a cover of his own song is so amazing that it raises the question if Cash’s cover was inspirational in this new direction of Cornell’s.

Cover versions also abounded: Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ was tweaked to include the postscript …Back, Led Zeppelin’s Thank You was faithfully enjoyable (the line, “inspiration, what you are to me” is entirely appropriate), Elvis Costello’s (What’s So Funny) Bout Peace Love & Understanding uplifting, Prince/Sinhead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U heartfelt and amazing, and The Beatles’ A Day In The Life an eye-opening set closer with Cornell’s guitar and Gibson’s cello going into ever-stranger places in unison.

The biggest cheers of the night, however, were reserved for the Temple Of The Dog tracks Say Hello 2 Heaven, a fantastic Wooden Jesus, and especially Hunger Strike, proving that for a ‘cult’ album, if resonated with a lot of people.

The encore was, if anything, an exercise in anti-climax. After 23 amazing tracks, Cornell started with his underground-famous version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, as much a transformation of a song as we have ever heard, before slipping in solo tracks from his last two studio albums, Scream, Josephine and Higher Truth. Enthralling and enjoyable, for sure, but not the biggest faves he could have closed out on a high with.

It’s overly simplistic to say any artist’s talent lies in just their songwriting, guitar playing, amazing vocals, or charisma. Importantly, Cornell bleeds talent: his performance has it all, and this performance was near-transcendent for the full house of fans of any of his many ventures.

Set List:
Before We Disappear
Can’t Change Me
As Hope & Promise Fade
The Times They Are A-changin’… Back
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
Fell On Black Days
Thank You
Doesn’t Remind Me
(What’s So Funny) ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding
Say Hello To Heaven
Blow Up The Outside World
Let Your Eyes Wander
You Know My Name
Nothing Compares 2 U
Rusty Cage
The Day I Tried To Live
Misery Chain
I Am The Highway
Hunger Strike
Black Hole Sun
Worried Moon
Wooden Jesus
A Day In The Life

Billie Jean
Scream
Josephine
Higher Truth

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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