Timbaland, who produced Chris Cornell's new album Scream, has been making the promotional rounds telling the media he thinks it could make Cornell "the first rock star in the club." Judging by Cornell's prodigious set at Warehouse Live Sunday night - onstage around 10:15 p.m., off sometime around 1 a.m., no break - he could easily be the first (and last) rock star in the bomb shelter.
Screamhas so far garnered mixed to malicious reviews - Aftermath hasn't heard it - but Sunday, the new songs didn't seem all that out of place in the set, and certainly didn't disrupt its flow one bit. Sure, the guitar lines of songs like opener "Part of Me," "Ground," and "Never Far Away" might have been a little cleaner, the drums a little more electro-synced, but then anything is going to sound lightweight stacked up against seismic earth-movers like Soundgarden's "Gun" or Audioslave's "Exploder." Scream's "Time," especially, was about as old-school grungy as it gets.
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As wide-ranging as Cornell's catalog can be - a heartfelt cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" kicked off a solo acoustic mini-set halfway through, just before 1997's "Can't Change Me" highlighted his longstanding Beatles fetish - it's all knit together with a sticky undertow of blues that can be brooding ('Fell On Black Days") or feral ("Set It Off"), but is never very far from the surface. No surprise, then, that, a blow-up-the-outside world "Spoonman" ("All my friends are Texans/ All my friends are Mexicans") segued into Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times," or that he kicked off the encore with a rampaging version of "Immigrant Song."
What was a little surprising, though, was that Cornell's cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" - which he dedicated to "my Seattle homeboy [and Thriller producer] Quincy Jones" - might have been the bluesiest song of the night. Cornell is as much of a restless spirit as his panther-like pacing onstage indicated, and while he can burn dinosaur bones with the best of them on steam-shovelers like "Rusty Cage," "Cochise," "Like Suicide" and especially "Outshined" - which Aftermath now recalls more as a visceral sense memory than an actual moment in time - it's his less metallic diversions that make him one of the most interesting, charismatic singers in rock.
That, and the man can still strike a wicked Jesus Christ pose.