Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chris Cornell @Town Hall, Apr. 13th

Holy Louie. Grunge-tastic.

On a whim, I tried my hand at getting tickets to see Chris Cornell at Town Hall on Ticketmaster when they went on sale to flex my ticket karma, and lo and behold, I managed to pull a pair in the front row of the orchestra, so it was a no-brainer that I go.  I had seen Cornell play before four years ago at Irving Plaza backed by a band.  In the middle of that show, he did break for a few songs solo on acoustic guitar, including his moody interpretation of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."  This time at Town Hall, he was sitting in for an entire acoustic set, all by himself, and with seats in the front row, it really could not have felt any more intimate.
(More words and pics after the jump.)

As you can see from the pics I posted, he looked considerably grungier this evening than the last time I saw him, perhaps in preparation for the upcoming reunion tour this summer with Soundgarden.  I had been digging his shorter haircut -- after all, the better to see those piercing eyes -- but at the end of the day, I came for his amazing voice and musical ability.  And surely he did deliver.

He started off the evening with a Syd Barrett cover ("Dark Globe") and played a two hour set that nicely spanned his career with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, as well as his solo stuff. I was very happy to hear "Say Hello 2 Heaven" by Temple of the Dog.  He rounded out the set with covers (no "Billie Jean" thankfully) of songs Led Zeppelin, Ghostland Observatory, and John Lennon ("Imagine").  His cover of The Beatles' "Day In The Life" floored me, as he managed to build up all the tension that song demands with nothing more than an acoustic guitar.  (It was quite a treat to see him perform this song especially in comparison to when I saw Neil Young play the same song at MSG.)

Cornell was loose and seemed happy to play the storytelling troubadour in front of this attentive crowd.  Even though we were seated for most of the night, the audience was focused on this great performance by Cornell.  He joked quite a bit and had a great few moments, like when he sang along to a record playing the piano accompaniment to "When I'm Down" feeling no need to involve an actual piano.  It was also very sweet when he brought his young son on for a few songs to "sing" and play air guitar alongside his pop.

Perhaps the cherry on the sundae for me occurred towards the end when Cornell urged us to rise from our seats and stand, so Wawa, Lily and I pressed up against the stage.  Cornell then proceeded to come to the edge and shake our hands.  Heaven, indeed!


Wawa and I got there early enough to catch the opener, William Elliott Whitmore, an earnest singer-songwriter, with a bluegrass flare.  I liked his growly voice and his simple use of an acoustic guitar or banjo with occasional bass drum to keep his beat.  I thought he had great presence, though it could have been the fact he played right above us.  Imma have to check him out some more.

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