Pic: Chris Cornell, Perth Concert Hall, October 10, 2011. Photography by Denis Radacic
In memory of the passing of Soundgarden/Audioslave vocalist, Chris Cornell, we revisit Polly Coufos’ review of his solo show at the Perth Concert Hall some six years back. This review was first published in The Australian on Wednesday, October 13, 2011.
Perth Concert Hall
Monday, October 10, 2011
It’s a daunting task to entertain a rowdy crowd for 130 minutes with just a guitar for accompaniment. On Monday night veteran Seattle rock star Chris Cornell did it with ease.
The 47-year-old ambled on stage, gladhanding those in the front row. He made small talk for a few minutes but the casualness of this arrival was forgotten as soon as he began to sing Ghostland Observatory’s Sad Sad City.
The intensity of his voice enveloped the room. One of the three defining voices of the grunge generation – along with Eddie Vedder and the late Kurt Cobain – Cornell has power and control across his wide range. Any more and it would be overwhelming, any less and it would come across as grandstanding histrionics.
On a trek called The Songbook Tour Cornell mixed tracks from his three bands, Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple Of The Dog, his solo career as well as a handful of top shelf covers. The lanky singer/songwriter stripped everything back to bare bones of voice and melody and created a night of rare beauty.
Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean was transformed. He brought out the inner turmoil of the character in the song and not just its irresistible tune. In the four minutes it took Cornell to perform it, the song was transformed from shimmering pop to a jaw-dropping dirty blues.
Cornell encouraged the audience to call out requests, but didn’t appear to play too many. Still this little piece of shtick kept the capacity crowd involved, involved enough to make a deafening racket in-between songs and then be whisper quiet while he sang.
He sidestepped some of his biggest hits. Fans wanting to hear Rusty Cage and Jesus Christ Pose will have to wait until the new year when Soundgarden return to Australia for the annual Big Day Out festival. They weren’t missed.
He spoke glowingly of the venue and eventually unplugged his guitar and wandered around the stage to show off the Concert Hall’s impressive acoustics while leading a singalong on Doesn’t Remind Me. There was a turntable on the stage, and Cornell sang along with a record containing the late Natasha Schneider’s piano part of When I’m Down. The trick would be repeated at the beginning of the encore when he added his voice and guitar to Scream.
After a gentle reading of Imagine to close the set Cornell left the stage, much the same way as he arrived, only this time stopping to shake hands and sign a few autographs on the way. The exit, like much of what had gone before, showed a casual perfection.