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Saturday Night: Chris Cornell At The House Of Blues

Saturday Night: Chris Cornell At The House Of Blues
Photos by Marc Brubaker

Chris Cornell Warehouse Live April 2, 2011

Check out our slideshow of Chris Cornell performing solo at House of Blues.

We can only assume that this current cross-country solo acoustic jaunt by Chris Cornell is a warm-up for a full assault by his recently reunited Soundgarden in the coming months. Or so we dearly hope.

Either way, for two hours on Saturday at the House Of Blues, Cornell took us all up into his attic of musical memories, playing songs from every stop along the way of his career so far, including a few left-field covers, while acting as an all too gracious host, considering the talking inside HOB.

(At this point complaining about Houstonians talking at concerts is like dancing about architecture, writing about music, or washing your car in Houston.)

Opening with the charity single, "I Promise It's Not Goodbye", Cornell took us through a sort of This Is Your Life of his own design, satisfying everyone who has climbed aboard his art and the work of his grunge contemporaries the past 25 years. That means stuff from Temple Of The Dog, Soundgarden, the spotty solo stuff, and even short-lived super-group '00s Audioslave.

For as dark, brooding, and weird that Cornell's collective has been the past 27 years (yes 27 years) it's refreshing to find him to be goofy as a solo artist, surrounded by amps and guitars onstage, with nothing else between him and the crowd but his voice and a story to tell.

Last we saw him in Houston, he was touring behind 2009's Timbaland-produced Scream, which sounded exactly like a Chris Cornell album produced by Timbaland. He didn't seem comfortable with any of that material, but he sure as hell jumped out of his skin to play over 30 songs from his Soundgarden hitch and on.

Cornell at his base is a showman who knows what to give his public, and luckily he's been party to some of the best rock music the past few decades that he can deliver a decent show. The voice, that high hellish holler, is very much still intact. Some people pop their skulls out of place to reach the heights he does on a verse.

Two hours gave Cornell time to bat around with his canon, and dish out rarities that few know the background of. "Cleaning My Gun" was written for Johnny Cash but was discarded by the renegade legend because it was out of his register, but Cornell has resurrected it for himself. He did his own solo cut "When I'm Down" accompanied by the instrumental track spinning on a turntable three feet away from his stool.  

Saturday Night: Chris Cornell At The House Of Blues

Out of nowhere came a cover of Ghostland Observatory's "Sad Sad City", a track we never thought we would hear in any other form than from the Austin electro-rock band. He turned it into this snakey thing, turning the "I need you to want me, to hold me, to tell me the truth" into more a command than the gripe that GLO has been doing it as.

But he knew that the majority of the fans came for his Soundgarden work, and he did roughly six takes on the band's classic grunge, waiting until the sixth song in the set to pull out "Like Suicide" from Superunknown, doing the band's biggest singles, and even "Mind Riot" from Badmotorfinger.

Personal Bias: Have you ever heard that opening dirge-riff from Soundgarden's "4th Of July" off Superunknown? Now imagine being only tenyears old when you heard it, on a school bus in the rain. That sound is what we thought being an adult sounded like, and we wanted it.

The Crowd: It was definitely a sold-out show, with most every space in the hall, floor and balcony, busting with life. Loud, angry, drunk, shouting life.

Overheard in the Crowd: A lot of people trying to imitate that Cornell scream, making for a zoo monkey-house vibe for about two hours, not even taking into account the spilled beer.

Random Notebook Dump: This is going to get me shanked in the yard during rec time, but the crowd at the Scott Stapp "acoustic" show last Tuesday was more behaved and reverent than the Cornell crowd was, even without it being a sell-out night.

Setlist:

I Promise It's Not Goodbye (solo)

Be Yourself (Audioslave)

Can't Change Me (solo)

Cleaning My Gun (solo)

You Know My Name (solo)

Like Suicide (Soundgarden)

Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden)

Man of Golden Words/Comfortably Numb (Mother Love Bone/Pink Floyd)

Burden in My Hand (Soundgarden)

When I'm Down (solo, sung along with LP backing)

Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog)

All Night Thing (Temple of the Dog)

Sad Sad City (Ghostland Observatory cover)

Doesn't Remind Me (Audioslave)

I Am the Highway (Audioslave)

Mind Riot (Soundgarden)

Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)

Sunshower (solo)

Blow Up the Outside World (Soundgarden)

Encore:

Scream (solo)

Imagine (John Lennon cover)

(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding (Elvis Costello/Brinsley Schwarz)

Encore 2:

Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden)

Like A Stone (Audioslave)

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