Chris Cornell: Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, AZ 5/1/07

You gotta wonder how many guys have admitted – “I’d give my left nut to sing like Chris Cornell.” 

The former Soundgarden/Audio Slave front-man turned solo artist holds a Rock-God voice that ranks up with Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, Axl Rose and Roger Daltrey. Touring in support of his forthcoming second solo CD, Carry On ( June 5), Cornell played an intimate show at the Celebrity Theater, comprised of songs from three bands, two solo albums and a few special rarities.

Featuring a back-up band of hired guns, Cornell joked: unlike my previous bands, “these guys aren’t afraid of girls.”  However, the performance was billed as an “Evening with Chris Cornell” and people had paid to hear “the voice,” and “the voice” delivered.  It delivered to the point that it didn’t matter that there were no Kim Thayil or Tom Morello  guitar riffs and solos. 

Appearing happy, slim and youthful, Cornell (42) appeared at least ten years younger, enthusiastically high-fiving the crowd between songs. Opening with  "Spoonman,” Cornell, in his signature high register sang, “feel the rhythm with your hands/steal the rhythm while you can.” Following with Soundgarden’s 1992 breakthrough hit “Outshined,” Cornell appeared enthralled as he and the crowd sang- “I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota.”

However, it was the Audioslave compositions that made for the brightest moments of the evening, as Cornell proved that no mater how much corporate radio air-time Audioslave received, there’s no denying the power of these anthems.  “Be Yourself,” “What You Are," “Doesn’t Remind Me,” “Like a Stone” and a moving acoustic versions of “I Am the Highway,” proved that Cornell’s recent Audioslave split has nothing to do with any distaste for the music.  “Like a Stone,” featured a Cornell and crowd sing-along, and the personal “I Am the Highway" was goose-bump worthy.  And for those pop traditionalists, a reinvented stripped down smoky version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” proved even an 80’s dance/rock theme can be made singer-songwriter legit.  Along with “Billie Jean,” there were four other new songs performed from Carry On, (“No Such Thing,” “Arms Around Your Love,” “Scar on the Sky,” “Your Soul Today”) that although mellower in nature, they showed promise as convincing rockers.

Cornell also revisited the hey-day of the grunge era with “Seasons,” from the Singles soundtrack and “Hunger Strike,” from Temple of the Dog.  However, it was the high note Soundgarden closer- "Slaves and Bulldozers,” where everybody soaked in the front-man’s jaw-dropping range, as he hollered, “Now I know why you’ve been shaking/So bleed you heart out/there’s no more rides for free.”

There’s no doubt a stellar solo career for Chris Cornell is in the wings; something most lead-singers, like that guy in Fall Out Boy, would give his left nut for.

Setlist –
Spoonman, Outshined, Original Fire, No Such Thing, Be Yourself, Hunger Strike, Mission, What You Are, Rusty Cage, Seasons, Scar on the Sky*, I Am the highway*, Can’t Change Me*, Doesn’t Remind Me, Your Soul Today, Billie Jean, Cochise

First Encore-
Like a Stone, Sunshower, Black Hole Sun

Second Encore-
Arms Around Your love, Slaves and Bulldozers

* solo and acoustic

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