I said I wouldn’t do it. I was going to pass up seeing Chris Cornell this time around because my experience with last year’s Fillmore Scream set was slightly traumatizing. I really tried to be open minded about this Timbaland album, but I just can’t do it. I don’t know if that makes me a bad Chris Cornell fan, or a really good one…because I will not follow him, follow him wherever he may go.
Regardless, there I was, walking into The Grand, on the guestlist thanks to my lovely well connected friend, Umlaut. 14 year old me would be dying to know that 29 year old me was on a guestlist at a Chris Cornell show, but that’s because all my 14 year old mind knew was Badmotorfinger and Superunknown.
And there I stood, at the barrier amidst an entirely different group of fans than tried to attend The Fillmore show. To my left, two little boys and two little girls, between the ages of 8 and 12. And let me tell you, kids get the stage swag over the cute girl every time. To my right, a couple who, I would later come to find out, knew every word to every Scream song, but none others.
Crash Kings are on stage, a three piece from LA. The singer has a flawless, Cornell-ish voice, The bassist; pretty fierce. But there’s no guitar. The keyboard sounds like a guitar. Huh? I don’t get it. They did a ‘War Pigs’ cover…hmmm.
During the break, I’m posting a tweet, and one pops up from Cornell backstage. Now, Cornell’s twitter is mindboggling…if Cornell hadn’t lost his luster pre-twitter, this would have really done me in. BUT, this is the first time I’ve seen someone use it right before hitting the stage, so I replied. And the guy behind me was looking over my should and was like, “ARE YOU COMMUNICATING DIRECTLY WITH CHRIS?” and I’m like, “no, not really….it’s twitter”. Fuck we live in really weird times.
When Cornell hit the stage, I was flooded with all of those old emotions: I’m in love with his voice, oh he’s so good looking, wow I’m really close, oh my he’s coming over here. This got me through the first new song. After that, we started delving into old familiar territory. He came over right in front of me, and was totally lit up from behind, and I’m thinking ‘He IS Jesus Christ Pose!’
For ‘Outshined’, he jumped onto the rail and sang from the crowd. Despite this, the show always kept a very mellow, positive, lovey-dovey vibe about it. Unlike seeing Audioslave, or Cornell’s Warfield show, the aggression was completely sucked out of every song. They are still great songs, but I would liken it to throwing your converse in the wash- somehow they just lost a bit of their character.
For ‘Hunger Strike’, someone had made cue cards for him to hold for the audience to sing along to. There were a lot of signs in the audience- apparently Chris is now taking requests (also from twitter) and signing things on stage. The security was super lax, and that aforementioned couple walked in front of me at the barrier, and gave the security guard what looked like a post-it and a pen for him to sign. AND THE SECURITY GUARD WALKED UP AND GAVE IT TO HIM. What?
It’s hard to see something in it’s original form and then see it retrofitted. This would be the Audioslave songs. NEEDS MORE TOM MORELLO. No one can replicate those sounds. No one.
Just when I was comfortably sunk into the set, there come the Scream songs. I tried to move along with it, I really did. But I kept looking around, thinking about how he really captured a new group of fans, as they sing and dance around to these songs. I imagine the look on my face during these songs is confusion. Probably not the best face to wear on the front row when he strolls over to your direction, no?
The going back and forth like that was jarring. To quote something that will go unnamed, the “mood swings are giving me whiplash”. But he did look really comfortable and really happy up there.
The band, who I did not care for last time, have definitely grown into their roles as a very good backing band. They do some random stuff onstage, like have a stage guy throw picks at them while playing and batting it with the arm of the guitar into the audience. Which I never caught…one landed in my shoe and bounced off and someone else snatched it from me!
Sigh, that ‘Billie Jean’ cover. Acoustic ‘Fell On Black Days’…’Sunshowers’! Amazing. This man was truly born to sing. I was also happy to hear the ‘Immigrant Song’ interlude during ‘Spoonman’. At one point towards the end, the guitarist had to pick up the setlist and show Chris something. The encore kicked off with ‘Follow My Way’, requested by a fan who had typed up the words for him (with errors that he would point out later). He sat down and sang it right in front of her. It was a rare song to hear.
At the end, there was this point when Cornell bent down and screamed at the guitar his guitarist was holding. I don’t know why, but this image stuck with me. There was something symbolic about it. I wish I had gotten a picture.
I purchased this signed and numbered poster afterwards at merch. Maybe I will cover ‘Scream’ up with ‘Soundgarden’. I was wondering what the backdrop of the set was all night, and once I got the poster home and looked at it, I realized it was Cornell’s signature.
Look, I may forever bitch and moan about Scream. But I love the old songs enough to make me keep coming back. And there’s always that future Soundgarden reunion to look forward to.
My video montage: Outshined from the crowd, Billie Jean, Fell on Black Days:
Chris Cornell performance: 8.5/10
venue (The Grand): 8/10
value ($35.50/ticket): 9/10