Cornell rocks with great energy and old hits

A review of Chris Cornell at the House of Blues on April 10, 2009

, Contributing Writer

Chris Cornell took the stage at the House of Blues a full hour after the opening act had left the stage. And while the venue was packed to capacity, the Axl Rose-like maneuver had most voicing their frustrations about the delay. Needless to say, when Cornell finally hit the stage, he had some making up to do. Over two hours with a set comprised of a well-balanced mix of solo material, old favorites from his days as frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave, and even some thrilling covers, he not only won over the crowd but had many exclaiming at the end of the night that it was the best they’ve ever seen from the grunge legend.

Opening the night with a gothic inspired futuristic introduction supplied by his talented backing band, Cornell took the stage with mic in the air and immediately launched into “Part Of Me”, off his new solo/Timbaland-produced album Scream. Starting the night with a new song off of an album which is getting slammed by critics was a risk, but it was well received by the crowd and allowed everyone to work out their angst from the long wait. Telling the audience to “make some noise for me Boston” he segued right into “Time”, also off of the new album, which attempted to be more harmonious than “Part Of Me” but was only saved by the fact that Cornell high-fived the majority of the front row while singing. “No Such Thing” followed and his fans were fully engaged again as Cornell’s emotion became palpable toward the end of the song. Cornell and company were running around on stage jumping on amps, and Cornell even joined the crowd on the floor keeping the energy of the room peaked for “You Know My Name”.

After telling the audience that the room was “hot, loud, and smells like smoke – that’s all you need”, Cornell slowed things down with “Preaching The End of The World”, adopting a Steven Tyler-like delivery. Soundgarden’s “Burden In My Hand” had everyone frenzied with the opening notes and garnered the loudest response thus far. Cornell took his place on top of an amp while the main lights turned on for the crowd to help on the vocals. Keeping with the Soundgarden theme, “Pretty Noose” followed before Cornell switched gears asking the crowd to help him sing Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” which was the best version I’ve ever heard, even without Eddie Vedder. As if there was any doubt that the room was in love with Cornell at this point, he kept them enamored with Audioslave’s “Show Me How To Live”, which quickly became another sing-along.

Slowing things down for a few minutes Cornell delivered “Ground Zero”, a new& tune that lacks his classic sound but still managed to work thanks to its melodic delivery. For an album that has been getting mixed reviews at best, the live performance of the material from Scream consistently received good responses from the crowd. In keeping with the slower tempo, Cornell sat on an amp to introduce the next song as one “that is probably on more albums than any other song” before beginning his unique rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Most of the audience talked over the vocal, but the effort was nothing short of impressive. Kicking the night back into full gear “Gasoline” got the floor back to fist pumping and head banging and resulted in Cornell breaking his mic stand while slamming it on stage. Taking the broken stand to his position on top of his amp Cornell went right into “Rusty Cage” and “Heaven’s Dead” before his band left him alone on stage.

Dimming the lights and picking up an acoustic guitar Cornell wowed the audience with an emotional rendition of “Can’t Change Me”. Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days” was performed acoustically and proved to be one of the highlights of the night, along with “Like A Stone”. During “Doesn’t Remind Me” Cornell was rejoined on stage by his band, and after a brief instrumental introduction during which Cornell left the stage for a minute, the band really increased their intensity on the the Audioslave favorite “Cochise” as Cornell continued to run around stage.

Returning to his new solo material, “Watch Out” came next and was followed by a huge build-up for new single “Scream”, which had the crowd on the verge of insanity. Considering the tunes are so new, it was surprising to watch the crowd sing-along with such passion. They knew all of the words and had as much energy as they did for the older material, a rare thing to see on solo tours. That flowed perfectly into main-set closer “Spoonman” (complete with a drum solo and tag on of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”), which had every person in the crowd raising their hands in the air while singing along in unison.&

After a brief rest, Cornell and his band returned to kick off the encore with another new tune “Enemy”. Cornell then told the audience to “help with the next one, so I remember the words” before starting the old Soundgarden favorite “The Day I Tried To Live”. The final song of the encore was “Black Hole Sun”, and by the time the band was finished they literally had the floor shaking as Cornell left stage. Cornell’s guitarist came back on stage to keep some feedback going and had everyone in the crowd wondering what was going on. Just minutes before midnight, Cornell returned and quickly launched into an insane cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” that officially closed out what had been an astounding set.

They may have waited longer than expected, but once Chris Cornell hit the stage at the House of Blues, nobody left (something I rarely see at shows now). While the new tunes off Scream are certainly different from what we’ve come to love from Cornell, they worked far better in the live setting. Of course it helps that despite being 44, he’s still rocking crowds like it was 1990. At no point did his energy or interaction with the crowd waver, not to mention that his vocal remains spot-on. In all ways the set was worth the wait.

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