Tag Archive: Chris Cornell

Soundgarden + Graveyard @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 September 2013

Tonight it’s rammed in Birmingham’s 02 Academy as fans flock in to see one of the giants of grunge, the recently reformed Soundgarden.

And as I arrive, Swedish rockers Graveyard are giving it a bit of heavy bluesy-rock, smattered with psychedelic riffs. Joakim Nilsson (guitar and vocals), Jonatan Larocca-Ramm (guitar and vocals) Rikard Edlund (bass) and Axel Sjöberg (drums) came together in Gothenburg in 2006 out of the ashes of previous bands and musings. Similar in genre to the main headliner (which makes a change) the crowd responds well. They finish their half hour set with a Zeppelin inspired blues title track off their second album. Latest album ‘Lights Out’ was released in October 2012. To cheers from the crowd they promise they will return – check them out through their Facebook page.

And now we wait for the main act, we watch a ridiculous amount of roadies swapping kit – even one vacuuming the stage. And while we wait here’s a potted bit of history. Formed in ’84, Soundgarden were one of the seminal bands and leading lights in the Seattle grunge scene before it spread out across the globe. They may have been first to sign to a major label but international success came on the back of the bands following in the wake of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.

Chris Cornell (vocals and guitar), Kim Thayil (guitar), Matt Cameron (drums) and joined by bassist Ben Shepherd in 1990 and, after localized, success launched album ‘Badmotorfinger’. It was the follow-up ‘Superunknown’ which took then stratospheric – a dark multi-award winning album compete with Grammy winning tracks: ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman.’  The follow-up ‘Down on the Upside’ was a tad of a departure – not as  heavy than their previous works and, as touring took its toll; Soundgarden spilt citing “creative differences.”  Each individual’s career took different directions. Cameron joined Seattle kinsmen Pearl Jam becoming their permanent drummer; Cornell went solo, hooked up with members of Rage Against The Machine to form supergroup Audioslave, before returning to a successful solo career, recording a Bond theme plus a sidestep with Timbaland and more recently, touring extensively with his ‘Songbook’ acoustic / spoken word gigs.

13 years after the split, Soundgarden got back together. Live gigs followed in 2012 with a trip to the recording studio culminating in their first album in 15 years ‘King Animal’. Soundgarden alone, let alone all the other projects, have sold well over 22 million albums worldwide; tonight is one of a handful of dates across the UK in O2 Academy venues.

The band is due on at 9pm, and at 5 past a roadie comes out and fixes the setlists to the floor; Soundgarden mix their set up – never doing the same two nights in a row. The crowd starts a slow handclap and start shouting in anticipation. Then to strobing lights each member separately appears on stage, to rapturous applause from the crowd.

First up ‘Let Me Down’, receives a big cheer but an even bigger response to second track; the tumthumping ‘Spoonman’. Cameron and Shepherd give it the bass rhythm core whilst Cornell stands and screams above the crowd as the track rolls on. The Brum crowd is well pleased.

Third track in is a heavy thumping track, with riff from Thiyal accompanied by Cornell’s stunning vocals. Another from their latest outing ‘By Crooked Steps.’ The affable Cornell: “Thank you… been a long time since we’ve been here… we have some friends from Birmingham – Kim said write a song about Birmingham so we did…” and as we roll into first single from ‘King Animal’ ‘Been Away Too Long.’ (I do speculate they say this about every place they play in…)

Old track ‘Get on the Snake’ has an anecdote about when they started out and dragging themselves around the world in a van. Cameron, like I need to say this, is a mesmerizing drummer.

This is a well rounded setlist from the guys, something old, something new, something classic, something out the norm… the new single from ‘King Animal’ ‘Pretty Noose’ followed up with that jingly guitar riff as Cornell’s implores… “Follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are…”  – this be ‘Burden In My Hand’ – one of the stand out tracks of tonight from their pre-split last album. The crowd accompanies Cornell as he sings.

Then the classic and iconic dark ‘Black Hole Sun’, albeit delivered a tad lacklustre. Next a song that was the first they played when they come back together and surprisingly one they never played live in their previous life. You can see why they did; ‘Blind Dogs’ is a powerful track. And then back to ‘Superunknown’ and a track that was written in the ‘dreary’ Seattle – ‘ a place where there is seven different types of mould’ – its ‘Fell on Black Days.’ Big cheers followed by ‘Blow Up the Outside World’ a track that rolls and rolls, Cornell backlit as he swings his arms while playing his guitar. Set competes with ‘Rusty Cage’- Shepherd is not happy, giving his bass away and disappearing off stage.

For the encore we get two tracks, starting of with off with the controversial (at the time) ‘Jesus Christ Pose.’

Soundgarden 2013 is indeed an older incarnation. The band gave fans tonight a real mix of the Soundgarden musical journey. If they hadn’t split after ‘Down on the Upside’ it would have been interesting to see where their creative journey had taken them – 2013‘s ‘King Animal’ skipped a beat as they all took different journeys.  As a band, they may be not as energetic as they once were – letting the music do the talking. After nearly 30 years since they formed, the talent of Cornell and his truly incredible voice and Cameron the thunder-god, are clearly the standout members of the foursome. A good night, though I’ve seen Cornell with Soundgarden, Audioslave and with and without band in tow, and Cameron and his mates in Pearl Jam, give far better live performances – tonight the band seemed muted – Cornell seemed less keen to front the band – more aware of being part of them.

Tickets were a tad on the pricey side tonight at £40 + for one of their shorter sets at twenty songs and an hour and fifty. Nearer fans than I spotted technical difficulties – was this the reason for the shortened set? Will Soundgarden return once again? It feels like Soundgarden has become the band member’s side-project – Shepherd’s just released a new album, Cameron will soon be off thumping the skins with his ‘other’ band Pearl Jam, as they promote their new outing, Cornell has just released a huge tour of North American as part of his acoustic ‘Songbook’ tour. Cornell, interviewed in January, said there was no reason the band shouldn’t make more music in the future. So their paths may cross again and they may well once again visit our shores.

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Set List:

  1. Let Me Down
  2. Spoonman
  3. By Crooked Steps
  4. Been Away Too Long
  5. Worse Dreams
  6. My Wave
  7. Get on the Snake
  8. Non-State Actor
  9. Pretty Noose
  10. Burden in my Hand
  11. Blood on the Valley
  12. Black Hole Sun
  13. Blind Dogs
  14. Taree
  15. Eyelid’s Mouth
  16. Fell on Black Days
  17. Blow Up the Outside World
  18. Rusty Cage

Encore:

  1. Jesus Christ Pose
  2. Slaves and Bulldozers

 

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Reviewed for Birmingham Live! Pictures: John Mason

 

Chris Cornell + Paul Freeman @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – 19 June 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Bianca Barrett.

Dozens of rock fans make their way tonight to the delightful Symphony Hall for somewhat of a different rock gig. One of THE rock voices of the past twenty years is on stage, stripped down and laid bare – an entire acoustic set – tonight Chris Cornell brings his Songbook to Birmingham.

As the fans gather outside the hall around the bar, a few make the effort to see support act Paul Freeman. Young Welsh lad singer songwriter, acoustic guitar in hand, single spotlight on him, he sings and plays uplifting and rocky songs, that certainly get your toes tapping. He’s chatty, enquiring about the England score (the rest of the world is watching the England Euro 2012 heats match that we need to draw or win) and about to start a song he’s interrupted after a couple of bars by a fly, which appears to come from his mouth – “what was that?”  He’s got a new single out ‘Well Well’- check it out on his website.

Half hour interval and the auditorium starts to fill as 8.45pm approaches and eager fans wait for Cornell. And on he comes, dressed in hoodie and white jeans, a trim to his spiral locks, and waves to the crowd, who enthusiastically cheer back. “Shit this place is big… from the outside you would think it would have several rooms… smaller rooms for people like me…”  Picking up guitar: “I believe the England national team have a game….. Fuck! Not gonna ask anyone…. Maybe they’ll win… positive thoughts…” (This clearly worked – England won !) “….emigrated from here at some stage …. We (Americans) all did… – Now what I do is just play songs…”

Cornell’s Songbook tour is made up of songs across two decades, that little Seattle group formed in memorial; the grunge heroes; the supergroup and “just Chris”. First up is ‘Roads We Choose’ a song “which is famous for being the song never good enough to release on anything…” Cornell starts as he means to go on – ridiculously talented, great acoustic guitarist (something that he isn’t that well known for) and THAT voice. And it’s pure pleasure to just listen, as he rolls through track after track – ‘Ground Zero’ shows how stunning it is.

The stage is simple, Cornell is surround by a circle of guitars and amps, a chair bar stool, a smaller stool with an old analogue red telephone (we know not why). Audioslave’s ‘Dandelion’ written for his daughter “while she was in her mummy’s tummy… I did write songs for her after she came out! I just wanted to jump on it!”

He’s chatty and engaging, the odd anecdote – making the crowd laugh “You are very nice…. Soundgarden tour manager was from Birmingham….he was great…. He’d punch people and get into fights for us – seemed alright for us!!!!” (Tunes his guitar) “…met the members of Sabbath… expected them to be evil and want to kill you…. They were really lovely…”

Next up Audioslave’s ‘Wide Awake’ written for “the victims of Hurricane Catrina – and for people like Bush who weren’t there – thank God he’s gone…” (crowd cheer).  Track is truly remarkable stripped back – his raw scream emotes the pain of the lyrics.

“This is a song I wrote… after looking around and getting sick of people… it’s the ‘fuck you!’ that everyone doesn’t like me……this one is full of metaphors…” We get an unabridged version – full of swear words – telling everyone to basically fuck off – the crowd laugh – we all get it. This is his version of  Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ – into the real version – ‘Can’t Change Me.’

And now he sits “seated like you…” and invites people to shout – “well that’s opened the doors…” and cheers from the different levels of the auditorium – upstairs – “sounds like they’re burning to death….” the alternating two side tiers “sound like fuckin’ lunatics!”

And now back in time – to The Temple of The Dog – conceived by Cornell as a tribute to his late friend Andy Wood (Mother Love Bone) “… a life ended short…” featuring Pearl Jam members including Eddie Vedder on vocal duties.  Mother Love Bone’s ‘Man of Golden Words’ beautifully morphs into Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ followed by couple more Temple songs, a quip about two blokes leaving the audience to take a piss “… likeliness 45% doing coke; 42% puking after lunch…” and then into the classic ‘Hunger Strike.’

And now for Soundgarden –  from ‘Superunknown’ ‘Fell on Black Days’ followed by a phenomenal psychedelic version of ‘Down on the Upside’s ‘Burden in My Hand’.  And stuff backing tracks – Cornell has committed music to vinyl – played on stage on a player – to sing along to – ‘When I’m Down’ is soul and blues – Cornell devoid of guitar – walking round the stage – his voice is remarkable. Followed by a Timeraland-less version of ‘Scream.’

Daft question of the night goes to the punter who asked when Soundgarden are playing the UK. That’ll be a “couple of weeks ago at Download” and you are more than welcome to see them at Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park, alongside Iggy and the Stooges on July 13th 2012.

And the songs keep coming: Audioslave’s ‘I am the Highway’, ‘ Doesn’t Remind Me’,  ‘Be Yourself’, Led Zepp cover ‘Thank You’ and the two hour set completes with Soundgarden’s ‘Blow Up the Outside World’ – deconstructed at the end with lopping voices, guitars overlaid both in and out of tune – a mesmerizing crescendo.

And now to the encore, and a quick snap of a couple of lucky punters fro him to tweet – “What shall I play?” – shouts from the crowd.  So we get class that is Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’, Audioslave’s ‘Like a Stone followed by covers in true Chris Cornell style – The Beatles ‘A Day in the Life’ and Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’

The way Cornell achieves the vocal ranges is just truly jaw-droppingly incredible. And in some ways it was one of the oddest rock gigs I’ve been to. A place full of rockers – just sat, in silence, mesmerized by the performance. When Cornell was singing you could have heard a pin drop.  To see one of the best voices in rock, stripped bare, just acoustic, in a true venue fit for purpose is a pure treat. And Cornell is edgy – non-conforming – full of contradictions – from scary angst-ridden grunge to dance – he continually does the unexpected – and writes his own rules. It was a privilege to listen in and for all rock fans and aspiring rock gods – go take a look if you get a chance to see the Songbook. You will seriously be blown away.

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Setlist:

  1. Roads We Choose
  2. As Hope and Promise Fade / 2 Drink Minimum
  3. Ground Zero
  4. Dandelion (Audioslave)
  5. Wide Awake (Audioslave)
  6. Can’t Change Me
  7. Man Of Golden Words (Mother Love Bone) / Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
  8. Wooden Jesus (Temple of the Dog)
  9. Call Me A Dog (Temple of the Dog)
  10. Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog)
  11. Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden)
  12. Burden in My Hand (Soundgarden)
  13. Seasons
  14. When I’m Down
  15. Scream
  16. I Am The Highway (Audioslave)
  17. Sunshower
  18. Mind Riot (Soundgarden)
  19. Be Yourself (Audioslave)
  20. Thank You (Led Zeppelin)
  21. Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave)
  22. Blow Up the Outside World (Soundgarden)

 

Encore:

  1. Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)
  2. Like A Stone (Audioslave)
  3. A Day in the Life (The Beatles)
  4. Imagine (John Lennon)

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Listening:

Temple of The Dog (1991)

Soundgarden: 

BadmotorFinger (1991)

Superunknown (1994)

Down on the Upside (1996)

Audioslave :

Audioslave (2002)

Out of Exile (2005)

Chris Cornell: 

Carry On (2007)

And just because this is totally worth a listen:

Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike