Chris Cornell goes acoustic at Berklee

A review of Chris Cornell at Berklee Performance Center on April 9, 2011

, Managing Editor

It was a perfect match on Mass Ave. this past weekend as one of the finest music schools in the world hosted one of the greatest voices on the planet, with Chris Cornell making a stop at the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday night. Cornell, who recently reunited with his most well-known outfit, Soundgarden, is currently taking a break from the studio for a sold-out acoustic tour. The grunge icon treated Boston to a show that touched on his entire career.

After “warming up” with the Tom Waits song “House Where Nobody Lives”, Cornell played a mix of his solo work, including two songs from his most recent release, 2009’s Scream. Although the album received mixed reviews and found little commercial success, the singer’s delivery of “Ground Zero” and especially, “Two Drink Minimum”, made one want to give it another listen.

Cornell shared both song and stories throughout the night, like his meeting with the Queen after writing the James Bond theme “You Know My Name”. The singer was humorously unimpressed with his own story, saying “I don’t know, maybe it’ll mean something someday”. Before “Sunshower” he blurted out the random thought that “Jesus isn’t going to look like Jesus if he comes back. He’s gonna be a Rock Star… and he’s already got the best logo: The Cross!”.

It was nearly an hour into Cornell’s set before an Audioslave song came up, as if to say “Oh yeah, and I was in this other band too”, which is a testament to how deep of a catalogue he’s working with. He followed “I Am the Highway” with his own ballad, “When I’m Down”, which he sang over a record of the track’s keyboards, saying “bringing a keyboard player out just didn’t feel right”. Cornell belted the song out then amusingly pointed to the record player on stage like a frontman would bestow praise on an actual bandmember.

As if the collection of Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, and Cornell’s own songs weren’t enough, the singer threw in some bold covers to close out his set. For most, taking on Led Zeppelin would be their most notable jaunt outside their own songbook, but his brilliant take on “Thank You” couldn’t compare to his rendition of “Ticket to Ride”, where his soulful delivery really made one feel the sadness of the song more than The Beatles’ original.

It’s no secret that Chris Cornell has a spectacular voice, as it’s been shining over heavy distorted guitars for over 20 years. With just his guitar as an accompaniment, this acoustic tour brought more attention not only to his vocals, but also to his songwriting. While some rock songs would sound deficient or even silly in an acoustic setting, Cornell’s showed his versatility.

House Where Nobody Lives (Tom Waits)
Ground Zero
Can’t Change Me
You Know My Name
Two Drink Minimum
Call Me a Dog
Fell On Black Days
Burden In My Hand
I Am the Highway
When I’m Down
All Night Thing
Man of Golden Words (Mother Love Bone)
Say Hello to Heaven
Mind Riot
Just Like Suicide
Like A Stone
Doesn’t Remind Me
Ticket to Ride (The Beatles)
Black Hole Sun
Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
Imagine (John Lennon)

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