Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chris Cornell

In high school, I had the sweetest Soundgarden glow-in-the-dark shirt.  I’m still upset with myself for giving it away. It was an iconic piece of my youth spent listening to Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Temple of the Dog as loud as possible, watching Singles (loved it for the Eddie scenes “a compliment for us is a compliment for you!”), Reality Bites, and Help! on repeat like I would die without them, and guzzling Faygo (hey, it was the Midwest!).

Despite all the footage of Eddie and Jeff, when I watched PJ20, I was most taken with Chris Cornell (Cameron Crowe, PJ20, and a look back at my adolescence...). I was drawn in when he talked about his relationship with Andrew Wood and found him to be eloquent, intelligent, and extremely grounded. He seemed like the kind of guy that you would want to hang out with and talk to for hours. When I read that he took the Citizen Dick track list (Singles) as a dare and ended up writing Spoonman, I was amused and impressed. I started listening to Audioslave and his solo work. I’ve mentioned it a few times before (Songs about feelings), but Like a Stone murders me; it is so beautiful that once I start listening, I leave it on repeat for hours because I miss the sweet, beautiful sound.

Anyway, after a long back story, I planned my recent vacation (Discovery Cove and Universal) around the weekend that Cornell performed at Hard Rock Live in Orlando.  I bought my tickets at the last minute and somehow lucked out with amazing 5th row seats near the center.

As soon as Cornell walked on stage, he was immediately comfortable and had a confident sense of emotional self-awareness without being too absorbed. He bantered with fans, took song suggestions from the audience, and even let one guy come on stage and sing Hunger Strike with him (more here). I instantly liked him. 

I’m not sure what I expected from the show.  I always knew that Cornell has a great voice, but I was completely blown away by how beautiful and rich his voice is live. On his recordings, he always sounds amazing, and while the music is always extremely interesting and goes along with his voice, it made me miss the powerful and unique sound of his voice. Hearing him sing with such force with just an acoustic guitar to back him up was amazing.

As the night progressed, the breadth of his songbook was staggering. When you start adding together all of his solo work with his Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, and Audioslave songs, I started to get an idea of what a talented, creative powerhouse he is. My favorites were Can't Change Me, Fell on Black Days, Call Me A Dog (I'll call you beautiful if I call at all...), and When I'm Down (music on vinyl and chills amazing), but honestly, every song on the setlist was fantastic.

I worship a well-executed cover, so I was beyond impressed with Cornell's ability to take a song (amazing, classic, beautiful, perfect songs) and add his own touch to them. Rightfully so, his cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is legendary.  At the Orlando show, he performed Billie Jean, Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine, John Lennon’s Imagine, and The Beatles’ A Day in The Life.

I am beyond a Beatles snob, but the cover of A Day in The Life blew me away.  Imagine a guy with just an acoustic guitar trying to successfully cover the back and forth of dark and light of Lennon and McCartney.  Sounds impossible, but he so successfully pulled it off that for a Beatles fan, it felt like a little bit of magic in renewing a much loved song in such an interesting way.

I’ve seen a lot of amazing performers, but I’m still a little goofy about the experience.  It’s been well over a week, but I’m still telling people about it, downloading live performances (see Jeffgarden.com for some awesomness – I highly suggest the Seattle version of A Day in the Life), and having a hard time listening to other music.  A night that inspires all of this is both rare and awesome. I look forward to my next chance to see him perform.

PS. Whoever does the booking for Chris, you need to get him at Ruth Eckerd Hall. His voice would be mind-blowingly amazing at the hall. 

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