Ex-Soundgarden Singer Turns Into Crooner As Solo Tour Begins

Chris Cornell previews first album, Euphoria Morning, and digs up a few nuggets.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell

began his first solo tour Monday, and if the opening show was any

indication, he's now more concerned with melody than feedback or flannel

shirts.

The onetime grunge poster boy walked onto a plain stage at Harvard

University's Sanders Theater in skintight black pants and a matching

sleeveless T-shirt, and was greeted with a rousing ovation. He waved at

the sold-out crowd and grabbed his microphone stand. After looking toward

the ceiling and smiling, he spent the next hour reinventing his patented

hard-rock sound.

Cornell gave the Cambridge crowd a preview of his first solo album,

Euphoria Morning, which comes out Sept. 21, while reprising stray

solo tracks from the past and a lone Soundgarden song.

"This is the first Chris Cornell show, ever," he said. Later on, Cornell

would inform the audience that he'd actually played solo once before but

Monday's show was "really it."

He opened with "Sunshower" (RealAudio

excerpt), his first post-Soundgarden cut, which he recorded for

the "Great Expectations" soundtrack (1998). Cornell's voice filled the

cavernous theater. His band — guitarist Alain Johannes

and keyboardist Natasha Shneider of the Los Angeles rock band Eleven,

drummer Greg Upchurch and bassist Ric Markman — followed suit with

a tight sound that flowed beneath Cornell's gentle croon (Cornell

introduced himself as "the guy with his name on the T-shirts").

"When Chris was in Soundgarden, it was always like he was trying to be

more of a rock star," concert-goer Dean Whittle, 32, of Boston, said.

"Tonight, he finally looked like a singer. Now that he's on his own, it's

like he doesn't have to deal with the noise of Soundgarden any more. He

can just sing, and let the music take a back seat."

Next, Cornell and band performed "Can't Change Me" (RealAudio

excerpt), the haunting lead single from Euphoria Morning.

Above Johannes' jagged guitar line and a tribal beat from Upchurch,

Cornell started in a low groan and erupted into a falsetto chorus. Along

the way, the singer clenched his microphone and leaned against the stand.

Looking toward the ceiling, he belted out the lyrics, "She's going to

change the world/ But she can't change me."

Fans hoping to hear pieces of Cornell's past didn't leave disappointed.

"Seasons," a Cornell solo track from the "Singles" soundtrack (1992),

was well-received. "Like Suicide," the one Soundgarden song he played

— the last song on Superunknown (1994) — was softer

than the original and fit perfectly with Cornell's newfound tranquility.

"All Night Thing," which Cornell recorded with the Seattle super

side-project Temple of the Dog, gave fans a quick clip of the singer's

more metal-edged vocal style.

But it was the soundscape of Cornell's Euphoria Morning music

that really fueled the show's momentum. In "Preaching the End of the

World," a wind sound effect echoed beneath a scathing drumbeat and

Johannes's guitar.

"Sweet Euphoria" featured an eerie organ line. "Sweet euphoria," Cornell

sang, "mine is the heart you stole/ Touched and broken are the things

you love/ Using stars to light your candles/ Warms my face but I can't

remember yours."

Cornell dedicated "Moonchild," a straight-up rock number with brash guitar

and the singer's familiar metal screech, to his wife, Susan Silver, the

former Soundgarden manager who also handled Alice in Chains and other

Seattle bands.

As an encore, Cornell and band played "Steel Rain," a Euphoria Morning

number marked by brooding keyboard effects.

"Chris just emanated such a radiance," Kate Kenney, 25, of Boston, said.

"His voice literally floated through the theater ... and the best part

was his overall simplicity."

Cornell is scheduled to play Town Hall in New York Tuesday (Sept. 14).

His five-city tour then moves on to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and

Los Angeles, where he starts a two-night stand Sept. 21, the day

Euphoria Morning comes out.