Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Joe Papeo
Chris Cornell was never ‘that guy’ who showed up late for work. “I’m so embarrassed”, he said as he took the stage 40 minutes after his scheduled headlining slot at the Count Basie Theatre. The Seattle native brought the pouring rain with him to Red Bank, and in return got a taste of typical rush-hour traffic in the Garden State. Performing well over two hours and even giving a nod to local hero Bruce Springsteen, Cornell proved that the unbridled power of one salty, sexy voice can quickly earn a crowd’s forgiveness.
Gaining notoriety at the height of the 90’s grunge scene, Cornell founded Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog from the heart of the genre’s birthplace. He was nominated for a Grammy as a solo artist in 2000 before joining members of Rage Against the Machine to form super-group Audioslave in 2001. Now he’s on the road to promote his new solo LP Songbook, which features stunning acoustic versions of songs from all facets of his storied career.
The stage was bare save for a stool, a turntable, a few guitars, and the mysterious placement of a red telephone (we’re still scratching our heads over that one, too). There wasn’t much to distract you from the man of the hour as he opened with ‘Scar on the Sky’ off his 2007 solo LP Carry On. From the start, the audience gave Cornell an affectionate Jersey-style reception full of whistles, woops, and half-serious requests for ‘Free Bird’.
In between songs Cornell shot the breeze like he was on an uncensored episode of VH1’s Storytellers. Before ‘Hunger Strike’ he addressed the Occupy movement, sharing his hopes to “make the world a fair place”. Over 20 years ago he penned those words ‘I can’t feed on the powerless/when my cup’s already overfilled’, but they sounded especially familiar tonight.
The rocker went on to introduce ‘Burden in My Hand’ by breaking out a guitar given to him by legendary producer Rick Rubin, who Cornell claims “never wears shoes, and always sits in the lotus position”. After ‘Burden’ he put down the guitar, dropped the needle, and belted the guts out of ‘When I’m Down’ over the hum of a vinyl record.
The set continued with big brother Peter Cornell taking center stage to perform his own original song. “So this is what success looks like”, he joked before playing his tune ‘I’m Still Loving You’.
The spotlight returned to Baby Bro Cornell, who’s gravelly tone was well-suited to deliver his first Springsteen cover, ‘State Trooper’. More covers followed, including a double dose of Led Zeppelin via ‘Thank You’ and ‘Tangerine Song’. On the cusp of midnight, he began a three song encore that kicked off with ‘Thunder Road’ and concluded with a stripped-down take on John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
It was the heaviest acoustic show The Basie had ever seen, and a true testament to Cornell’s prolific Songbook.
Scar on the Sky
As Hope and Promise Fade
Can’t Change Me
Like a Stone
Say Hello 2 Heaven
Burden in My Hand
When I’m Down
I’m Still Loving You by Peter Cornell
Doesn’t Remind Me
Black Hole Sun
Blow Up the Outside World
I Am The Highway
TheWaster.com | Pipes