Ex-Soundgarden Singer Turns Into Crooner As Solo Tour Begins
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
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
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
"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
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
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.