The king of cool wows Wellington

From the garden of sound: Chris Cornell has a huge voice, but his Wellington concert was intimate and effortless.
From the garden of sound: Chris Cornell has a huge voice, but his Wellington concert was intimate and effortless.

Chris Cornell, Michael Fowler Centre, October 2

Chris Cornell made his name as the big-voiced singer of Soundgarden. From there he released the solo album, Euphoria Morning, before teaming with three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. A couple more solo albums were dotted in and around Audioslave albums and now he's on the reunion trail with Soundgarden. The band is one of the headliners for the 2012 Big Day Out.

This was Cornell solo, intimate. He had half a dozen guitars to pick through and pick at. He had the music from Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, Soundgarden and his solo albums to work through and he had an audience that offered a standing ovation as soon as he took the stage.

Cornell's voice is huge. It is a thing of beauty. It is effortless. And he had the crowd on his side right from the start, even if the decision to open with a cover of Syd Barrett's Dark Globe was almost a curveball. It became clear that the covers signposted influences (working best with the electric guitar version of Bruce Springsteen's State Trooper).

Throughout the generous two-hour set Cornell told stories, took requests, made jokes, but most importantly, at every stage, he gave his audience what he wanted: plenty of great songs showcasing that extraordinary voice.

Highlights seemed to appear with every second selection, but it was an arm-hair raising moment being part of the audience that greeted his almost-apologetic version of Temple of the Dog's Hunger Strike and when he stood alone at the microphone to croon When I'm Down, accompanied by the original piano track crackling and popping next to him on a turntable, it was positively transcendent; post-modern torch singing will never be better than this.

Soundgarden songs Blow Up the Outside World and Black Hole Sun received huge applause, Audioslave's Like a Stone and I Am The Highway really suited their solo, acoustic treatments.

Cornell was witty and charming and relaxed. He oozed talent and cool. And his cover of The Beatles' A Day in the Life was stunning.

The set was probably five or six songs too long, but there's a good chance some of his fans are still at the venue waiting just in case he returns. So in that sense Cornell gave his audience what it wanted.
And even though I would have removed the unnecessary cover of John Lennon's Imagine and, probably, Bob Marley's Redemption Song, this was still one of the best live gigs I've seen this year.

The Dominion Post