Soundgarden and Audioslave front man Chris Cornell’s previous solo acoustic tour went so well, he decided to keep a good thing going. Playing to a packed audience at the elegant Orpheum theatre, Chris Cornell delivered a spirited set of acoustic originals and covers, playfully interacting with the audience for the entire hour and forty-five minute performance.
The opening act, Bhi Bhiman, was introduced to Chris Cornell while he attended the Jools Holland show in London. Bhiman, like the headliner, played an entirely acoustic set. With a strong yet soft voice, and thoughtful contemporary lyrics Bhi Bhiman’s music would work well in any fire lit setting but lacked some of the grit that grunge-hungry audiences crave. For his closing song, Bhiman convinced a healthy portion of the audience to whistle along to a spirited rendition of Dire Strait’s “Walk of Life.” Bhi would reappear during the encore and further proved his worth, the man has a good voice.
Cornell walked onstage to a standing audience screaming their appreciation. Commenting on how much he had enjoyed the previous night’s performance, Cornell spoke about the rowdiness of the Vancouver audience. The crowd was excessively spirited but the spirit was of the best sort: love, awe and nostalgia for an old grunge favourite and one of the most important artists of the northwest. Cornell has had a few bumps along his career but has faired rather well. His voice is as deep and solid as ever; hot off the heals of a recent Soundgarden reunion, Cornell isn’t out of practice. Drawing deep from his Soundgarden, Temple of A Dog, Audioslave and solo catalogues, Chris played an extremely intimate show full of stories of visiting Vancouver in his early years, jokes and his extensive love of prog rocker legends Rush. Not afraid to cover the greats, Cornell also played John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” and” Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” amoung other covers. Being a solo acoustic performance, Cornell had the power to make last second detours to play whatever song he felt. During a song break an audience member called out an appropriately timed song request. Cornell was happy to please a fan; he consented, changed his guitar tuning and obliged.
The highlight of the evening was the result of a miscommunication with the audience. When a request was screamed from the audience, Cornell responded” What are you saying? It sounds like you are saying “Interior Space Monkey.” I can’t understand you…” The fan repeated their inaudible request, to which Cornell responded, “There, again, it sounds like you are saying “Interior Space Monkey.” Chris then preceded to adlib a song lasting roughly a minute and a half, reciting half-baked lyrics from stream of conscious. “That’s a shitty song” Cornell laughed “but who knows, maybe one day people will think all my songs are bad, except that one time Chris Cornell played that song in Vancouver… Interior Space Monkey.”
Cornell sang two songs in accompaniment with an onstage record player, one from his recent solo album and another collaborative effort with a recently deceased concert pianist. Cornell has a wide variety of quality songs, like the often overlooked gem from his 1999 solo release Euphoria Morning “Can’t Change Me.” Near the end of the set, Cornell rode around stage on a hot rod bicycle recently donated during the previous night’s performance in Victoria. The encore consisted of an impressive take of Temple of a Dog’s “Hunger Strike” with opener Bhi Bhiman brilliantly singing Eddie Vedder’s portion of the duet. On that evening, Cornell didn’t feel like to rehashing hits like “Black Hole Sun” or “I Am the Highway.” Most of the fans didn’t care, many found it refreshing. No matter, he’ll be back!
Photos of Chris Cornell © Jamie Taylor