Credit: Brent Mendoza
At the first show of his two-night engagement (one open to the public, one in support of a charity), Soundgarden/Audioslave front man Chris Cornell took the stage to thunderous applause and a sea of cell phone photographers. Casually making his way across the perimeter of the stage, Cornell welcomed the crowd, slapping hands with those fans lucky enough to be in the front row of the sold out show.
Flanked by a stand up piano and a collection of acoustic guitars, Cornell took his seat in a cozy wooden chair amidst a living room setting reminiscent of the MTV Unplugged series. “I have a set list but I usually don’t follow it”, he announced as he launched into his first song, a soulful version of Audioslave’s “Be Yourself”.
Drawing on material from all of his various projects, the songs translated surprisingly well as acoustic numbers. Stripped down to the bare essentials, Cornell’s sorrowful, raspy vocals were particularly moving on songs like “Preaching The End of The World” and “Fell on Black Days”, which was accented by beautifully executed cello accompaniment. Other notable songs of the evening included Soundgarden’s “Seasons” from the quintessential Gen-X film Singles, and an a cappella version of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone”.
Cornell was in good spirits, engaging in lively back and forth banter with the crowd in between songs. One of the more humorous stories of the evening stemmed from a conversation that had taken place earlier that day at sound check. Cornell, who was convinced that it was his first time playing at The Roxy, later discovered his photo on the wall, taken from a show at the club years earlier.
The hour and a half long set ended with a stunning version of “Ticket to Ride”, featuring looped guitar riffs and Cornell’s powerful falsetto vocal harmonies floating over the melody. Cornell exited the stage the same way he entered, with a round of high fives as his loops continued to distort into infinity.
Catch the second Chris Cornell show tonight when he plays a benefit to aid the Fulfillment Fund, a charity which helps low-income students to graduate from high school and go on to college.