Chris Cornell

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author MIN date 26/03/16 venue Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, DEN

As I enter Koncerthuset this Saturday night, the venue is already buzzing and vibrating with excitement. Present are concertgoers ranging from 20 to 50 years old, wearing everything from old jeans and worn-out Soundgarden-tees to open-collar blazers or informal dresses. Because of Chris Cornell’s vast and varied discography, he’s got a hold of many different segments from different time periods. Whether you’re a fan of the 90’s grunge, alternative rock (and excruciating pop) of the 00s or the acoustic folk from the present decade, there’s a pretty good reason to go to this sold-out show at one of Copenhagen’s finest venues. Tonight’s performance is the first of two dates at Koncerthuset – this one is actually an extra added date due to high demand – the second show is on April 5th. As I walk up the stairs of Jean Nouvel’s cobalt blue rectangle at approximately half past seven, the place is already swarming, and I have a feeling that not everyone will make it to their respective seats in time for 20:00 when the show is scheduled to start.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank Thor Straten

Chris Cornell

When the clock strikes eight, almost half of the seats in the concert hall are still empty – as I feared, people are still waiting in line at the bar. Maybe Koncerthuset should have opened the doors half an hour earlier or just put up another (temporary) bar. For obvious reasons, the show doesn’t start on time. Eighteen minutes behind schedule, the amount of people has greatly increased, and they’re starting to get restless – although not in a bad way. It seems as if everyone knows why there’s a delay, so the present crowd starts chanting and a few drunken attendees yell “We love you, Chris Cornell!” Yes, the atmosphere is filled with anticipation, and as the clock strikes 20:25, the main man enters the stage which only includes a chair, a keyboard, six acoustic guitars and miscellaneous instruments and pedals. The crowd goes absolutely crazy, and Cornell walks around the room, smiling and waving to everyone surrounding him in a 360 degrees diameter. Instead of going ahead and kicking things off with a song, he interacts with the crowd, thanks them and tells a joke.

The set starts with “Before We Disappear” from Cornell’s latest album, ”Higher Truth”, where he’s joined my multi-instrumentalist Bryan Gibson on keys. Although the song wouldn’t be in my top five choice cuts from the album, it works really well and, as expected, the sound in the room is full and crystal clear. I’ve seen Soundgarden two times prior to this concert, but never has Chris Cornell sounded as powerful as he does today; he is without a doubt one of the greatest rock vocalists of our time. Whether it’s a quiet sigh or a howling wail, he sounds as good as on the best of days. Between sets, he either tells charming stories about the times he’s been in Copenhagen or he interacts with the crowd (even when they yell “Make America great again!” which he later responds to with a rant against capitalism). But as good as Cornell might sound, it can’t save some of his songs and covers from being less than great.

On his interpretation of the Bob Dylan-classic “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, Cornell changes the lyrics to something more present. Although it sounds a bit awkward when he forces an extra syllable into the chorus, resulting in “’Cause the times they are a-changin’ back”, it’s an honest and admirable cover. But the real sore thumb amongst the covers is Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. It didn’t work on Cornell’s album “Carry On”, and it doesn’t work now. Unfortunately, neither does some of his own material (like “As Hope & Promise Fade” and “Doesn’t Remind Me” by Audioslave), as it just lacks actual quality to keep you interested. At this point, I get the sudden feeling that maybe the show won’t get better than this. Luckily, I needn’t worry for long as the next song, “Blow Up the Outside World” by Soundgarden, is a definite highlight of the night, and presents everything great about Chris Cornell. His voice is immense and intense, his guitar playing is good, and he adds a little psychedelic reverberation via his pedalboard at the end of the song which goes on for a few minutes before the next tune.

From here, the show keeps getting progressively better, and the remaining set includes a beautiful rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (featuring an excellent cello-solo by Bryan Gibson), a cover of Johnny Cash’s edition of the Soundgarden-classic “Rusty Cage” (to much amusement to the crowd) and several Temple of the Dog songs (something that yours truly have been waiting several years to hear live). On some of the songs, Bryan Gibson helps skillfully (his part on cello gives a dark and murky edge to “Hunger Strike” and “Black Hole Sun”), and on others, Chris stands alone. He both walks around and greets everyone as he plays the guitar and harmonica, or he sits down and sings intensely. When “Wooden Jesus” triumphantly ends with such intensity that you should think Cornell tore off the strings of his guitar, the audience has definitely gotten their money’s worth, and the applause is thundering. The main set ends on a lower key with a tribute to the victims of Brussels last Tuesday in the form of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, which, by the end, causes (almost) everyone to take a stand and applaud him.

Initially I thought the show should’ve ended while at its peak (“Wooden Jesus”), but during the encore we get a cover of U2’s “One” featuring the lyrics of Metallica’s song of the same name. This makes for an exciting and surprisingly good listen, which only underscores what a shame it is to end the show on the cheesy ballad “Josephine” that follows. But ultimately, Chris Cornell delivered a great and intimate show which only had minor technical issues (for a few minutes, a sound engineer came on stage amongst the darkness to fix a monitor). However, I can’t help but think that Cornell should’ve exchanged some of the covers and weaker material for something off his strongest solo-album “Euphoria Morning” which, except for one song, is sorely missing. But still, I wouldn’t mind being invited back to a two hour-set with what is probably the greatest voice around today – especially with a crowd as excellent as the one tonight.

Setlist:

  • 1. Before We Disappear
  • 2. Can’t Change Me
  • 3. As Hope & Promise Fade
  • 4. The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan-cover w/ alternate lyrics)
  • 5. Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
  • 6. Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden-cover)
  • 7. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson-cover)
  • 8. Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave-cover)
  • 9. Blow Up the Outside World (Soundgarden-cover)
  • 10. Let Your Eyes Wander
  • 11. Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince-cover)
  • 12. Rusty Cage (Soundgarden-cover)
  • 13. Seasons
  • 14. I am the Highway (Audioslave-cover)
  • 15. Misery Chain
  • 16. Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog-cover)
  • 17. Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden-cover)
  • 18. Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog-cover)
  • 19. Wooden Jesus (Temple of the Dog-cover)
  • 20. Imagine (John Lennon-cover)
  • - Encore -
  • 21. Bend in the Road
  • 22. One (U2-cover w/ Metallica’s “One” lyrics)
  • 23. Josephine

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