Posts Tagged ‘Chris Cornell’

In continuation of this live series, here’s a look at some performers that just fell short of utter perfection.

Chris Cornell

I first saw Chris Cornell in Hamilton in 2008, playing a show in support of his solo album, Carry On. I drove all the way from Whitby, and braved a heavy snow storm to get there. I went with a potential more-than-friend friend, to the Hamilton Convention Centre – a venue that has more of a high school gym feel, standing room only, but big enough that you didn’t have to rub sweaty elbows with anyone. I soon found out, the best thing about a Chris Cornell show is that you not only get his solo music, but also that of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. How can you beat that?

I also saw him play as part of Soundgarden’s reunion tour at Molson Amphitheatre, back in 2014. Although the company was great, and the music full of nostalgia, the far-away lawn seats made it difficult to fully get engaged in the show, and I left wanting more. Not to mention, the dramatic rainstorm put a damper on the experience.

My all-time fave show of his by far, was an acoustic solo show (ie just him and his guitar) at Massey Hall, which I attended solo. He interacted so much with the crowd, told stories, performed his heart out – including his epic version of “Billie Jean” and his version of “One” – a mash up of Metallica’s “One” lyrics and U2’s “One” music. His voice is was as much of an instrument as his guitar; so soulful, emotive and unique. It’s an effin’ shame we don’t get to experience him anymore. RIP.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper is a man of many talents. He plays multiple instruments, including a lap slide guitar; his music can be soft and poetic, but also angry and rock ‘n roll. He performs as a solo act, and also with different bands/musicians.

The first time I saw him was back in 2009 alongside The Relentless 7 at the Virgin Festival, at the Molson Amphitheatre. Although I appreciated the obvious talent and musicianship, I left underwhelmed. His sound with The Relentless 7 is a lot more funk-based and instrumental jamming, which is great; just not my preferred version of what I know Harper can do.

I got the opportunity to see him again in 2011, for a solo show at Sound Academy (now, Rebel; previously, the Docks,) on the Give ‘Til It’s Gone tour. I had balcony seats so it wasn’t as crowded as the general admission area, and he was phenomenal. He went on for 7 encores. Yes, 7. And probably could’ve kept on going. He’s such a force on stage, namely his powerful lyrics and sublime vocals. I left elated, and only wanting more and more.

By far, the best performance of his I saw was – similar to Chris Cornell – a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall, which I, once again, attended solo, back in 2012. It was just him and a line up of at least 10 different guitars, all of which he played with sheer perfection. He was very interactive with the audience, even serenading a couple seated in the front row with “Forever” when they told him they just got engaged. During the show. His music is easily in my top 5 favourites, and he’s such a dream to watch; it feels like he’s talking/singing directly to you, getting you through whatever you’re going through, and being a friend with whom you share all your thoughts. He’s also incredibly easy on the eyes. Swoon.

U2

I tallied it up, and I’ve seen U2 a total of 6 times live: 1997 Popmart tour, SkyDome; 2001 Elevation tour, Air Canada Centre; 2005 Vertigo tour, ACC; 2009 360 tour, SkyDome; 2015 Innocence + Experience tour, ACC; 2017 Joshua Tree tour, SkyDome. I’ve always attended with someone, either family or friends.

For the longest time, I was the most obsessive unapologetic U2 fan. Everything they did turned to gold, in my eyes. The first time I saw them, I was blown away. The sheer production of their show was like nothing I’d ever seen. Lights, lasers, lemon-shaped disco balls, you name it. And the caliber of the performance matched it perfectly, including Bono’s voice, which doesn’t age even in the slightest as he gets older. Not to mention, hearing/seeing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” live is a rite of passage for any music/U2 fan.

The 2015 show ended it for me though. None of their music after 2004 was any good, and got worse and worse with every album. This show was more about production, special effects and fancy stages. It was all so distracting from the performance itself, which seemed to hide behind all the grandiosity, and suffered as a result.

I got suckered into seeing their Joshua Tree tour – to witness the classics one last time – but that was the end of it for me. I can’t justify it anymore. Neither their live shows nor their music are anything like what they used to be, so I’ll give them a shout out for entertaining me for so many years.

The National

I was first introduced to The National back in the early 2000s. It was love at first listen. Since then, I’ve seen them perform a whopping 8 times: 2008 Boxer tour, Brooklyn Academy of Music; 2008 New Yorker Anniversary, Hammerstein Ballroom; 2009 High Violet tour, Kool Haus; 2010 High Violet tour, Massey Hall; 2011 High Violet tour, ACC; 2013 Trouble Will Find Me tour, NXNE Yonge-Dundas Square; 2014 Trouble Will Find Me tour, Massey Hall; 2017 Sleep Well Beast tour, Sony Centre. Either solo, with friends, or family. I’ll be honest though, mostly solo.

They put on an incredible show. Goosebumps for days. They outperform even themselves almost every time, and every track is that much better than the album version. I’ve even met lead singer Matt Berninger at the screening of their documentary, Mistaken for Strangers. Suffice it to say, I’m a fan. And to be honest, the quality of their music hasn’t wavered since that first album of theirs I heard. But the truth is, after seeing them so many times, their live show has become somewhat predictable.

The quasi a capella version of “Vanderlye Crybaby Geeks,” the amped-up punk-rock ‘n roll version of “Mr. November,” the adventurous nature of Berninger walking and singing through the crowd. I can understand as a first-time viewer, how incredible it is to see, so I totally get why they keep doing it.

A better and frankly more likely explanation is, I’ve become a concert snob. I need variety, perfection, emotion, and satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, at the most recent show I saw of theirs, I was thoroughly entertained. But it just wasn’t enough. I want it to feel like I’m watching them for the first time again, and I don’t know if it will ever be that way again.

 

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Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.

We often hear about celebrities being triple threats. Usually that entails having a music, acting and some sort of entrepreneurial career, ie perfume line, clothing line, etc. Sure these celebrities are somewhat successful in all their paths, but for the most part: actors can’t make music, musicians can’t act and neither are actually all that involved with their businesses (except to use their face to sell them.) So I’d like to turn your attention to those celebrities that truly are dangerous: musicians who lend their talent to several bands, all of which get them recognition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dave Grohl. He first appeared as the mad-tastic drummer for Nirvana. A 90s grunge band that defined a generation. After lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Grohl wasn’t ready to leave music just yet so he decided to make his own band: Foo Fighters. But this time, he was on guitar and song writing. In their illustrious 19-year career, they have won a whopping 11 Grammys, and have released seven studio albums.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            During his stint with Foo Fighters, Grohl took a mini-break and joined Queens of the Stone Age (QotSA) in 2002 as their drummer. He recorded their third and most successful album, Songs for the Deaf, and toured with them in support of it. In 2009, Grohl took another vacation from the Foos and joined QotSA frontman Josh Homme and ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to form Them Crooked Vultures, with Grohl back on drums. They’ve released one album to date and are currently working on their next one. So that’s four bands, playing two different instruments and even songwriting. He may not have a shoe named after him, but that’s one talented dude.

Emily Haines. Haines hails from Toronto and is best known as lead singer, guitar player and keyboardist for the uber popular indie band Metric who put out their first album in 2003. And she plays a mean tambourine. Prior to forming Metric, Haines was part of the Toronto music collaborative Broken Social Scene: a concept formed by two indie musicians who bring together the best of indie music in Toronto. The band has had as little as three members to as many as eleven. The musicians are typically part of other bands, and just lend their vocal or other music talents when they can.

After releasing two albums with Metric, Haines formed Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, a much more mellow version compared to Metric, and where she more often uses her piano skills. She released one album in 2006 which included the single “Our Hell” which is sure to give you goosebumps. In 2007, Haines got back in the studio with Metric and between then and 2012, have released three more albums, including 2009’s Fantasies, easily one of the best albums released that year. One band, a solo project, and guest starring vocals in an extensive indie music project, mostly consisting of Canadian artists. Plus the ability to play multiple instruments. Can she be any cooler?

Chris Cornell. First known as lead singer/guitarist for prominent grunge band Soundgarden. They’ve been around since the late 80s and have released six albums and won two Grammys. While Soundgarden was rising to fame in 1990, Cornell combined forces with most of the members of yet-to-be-famous Pearl Jam, to form Temple of the Dog, as a tribute to his roommate Andrew Wood, who had passed away earlier that year. They released only one self-titled album which spawned the classic track “Hunger Strike.”

In 1997, Soundgarden hit a rough patch and they broke up, so Cornell went solo. His 1999 debut release wasn’t incredibly well received, but the single “Can’t Change Me” was nominated for a Grammy. Next, he joined Rage Against the Machine’s band (minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha) and formed Audioslave. Another hard rock band who put out three albums and were nominated for three Grammys. Due to creative differences, they disbanded in 2007, and Cornell went back to his solo career, made two more albums, the more recent Scream produced by Timbaland. Again, not critically acclaimed but it was Cornell’s highest charting solo album.

Finally, in 2010, Soundgarden reunited, put out an album and are touring. Cornell writes all his lyrics, his vocal range is out of control and he has also lent his voice to several soundtracks, including my personal favourite “Sunshowers” from Great Expectations. So three bands, a solo career, writing credits and having his music in movies. Bonus: if you ever see him live, it’s like seeing four bands at once.

Anyone who wants to become a celebrity will find some way to do it. With all the mediocrity we see out there, all the reality-show-fabricated talent, all the YouTube sensations, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognize true celebrity: being famous/recognized for being amazing at what you do best. Not being average at several avenues leading to celebrity. These three musicians are a breath of fresh air, a sight for sore eyes because they are so talented and live for music so much so that they will find any way to be able to create it. And for us who long for what’s real, without all the glitz and glam, it’s a reminder that it still exists. And that’s a beautiful thing.