Chris Cornell performed his first concert at the esteemed Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday (Sept. 20). The venue, renown for its superb acoustics, was a fitting home for the singer’s career-spanning set as he utilized the space with his huge vocals and shared stories about the songs in the intimate setting.
Before Cornell even played a note, he walked out on stage to a thunderous standing ovation. The rocker was greeted by the capacity crowd of 2,200 fans, which notably featured System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian and Cornell’s former Audioslave bandmate and Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford.
The Soundgarden frontman addressed the crowd explaining that when he began doing solo acoustic shows four years ago, he didn’t want to play “bars” or “juke joints.” He longed to play classic venues that made him “look a lot the fuck better.” On his last acoustic outing, Cornell didn’t play Los Angeles because the home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic was booked, but the enigmatic singer held out and explained he was excited to “finally get to play Disney Hall.”
During the show, Cornell performed songs from Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well music from his solo career and some choice covers. Fans reveled in watching the iconic singer play a fan requested, rare acoustic take on Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” and powerful turns through “Fell on Black Days” and “Black Hole Sun,” both of which featured Bryan Gibson on cello. Following the instrumental break in “Black Hole Sun,” Cornell and Gibson stopped as the audience gave an enthusiastic roar in appreciation of the beautifully composed middle section. The singer smiled as they waited for the fans to settle down before finishing the Soundgarden classic.
The 51-year-old singer and songwriter wowed the audience with two Temple of the Dog tracks, “Hunger Strike” and “Wooden Jesus,” as well as a stellar version of Mad Season’s “River of Deceit.” He also embraced his Audioslave days, performing “Doesn’t Remind Me” — which he dedicated to the band’s bassist Tim Commerford — “I Am the Highway” and a incendiary version of “Like a Stone.”
The night was chock full of covers, including John Lennon’s “Imagine” and an interesting mashup using the lyrics of Metallica’s “One” over the strumming chords of U2’s song of the same name. The singer and guitarist explained he came up with the unique take on the song by searching up the lyrics for the song online. He started playing the track and realized the lyrics weren’t quite right. Cornell discovered he was singing the lyrics to the Metallica song over the chords of the U2 track, and an unusual cover was born. He noted that while Metallica’s version may be more popular online, U2’s “One” is up there with the greatest songs of all time.
Other standout covers included back-to-back Bob Dylan songs, including an updated take on the classic “The Times are A-Changin’” — complete with new lyrics — and a powerful version of “Threw It All Away,” where Cornell sang into his harmonica microphone (after removing the harmonica) facing the crowd behind the stage to give fans in the cheap seats a better view of the rocker. Cornell said Neil Young was the first person to actually sing into the harmonica microphone and quickly defended, “but it was my idea to steal it.”
He later performed the song “Josephine,” which was dedicated to his wife, who was in attendance. Cornell said he called “Vicky,” his girlfriend at the time, and played her the song over the phone. In the chorus he asks for her hand in marriage singing, “My sweet Josephine / Won’t you come and marry me? / I got every kind of love that you would ever need / Dying here on bended knees.” Before launching into the romantic track, Cornell joked that his proposal was a “chicken shit way to do it,” noting that if she said no he could have simply said, “It’s just a song.” But it all “worked out,” said Cornell as he began the song, which is featured on his new solo album, Higher Truth.
In a nod to the amazing venue, Cornell performed the classic “Ave Maria,” accompanied by a cello and acoustic guitar. The singer held the lyric sheet in his hand as he solely focused on belting out the Franz Schubert piece, which dates back to 1825.
Chris Cornell’s Higher Truth Tour wraps at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix on Nov. 4.
“Before We Disappear”
“Can’t Change Me”
“The Times Are A-Changin’”
“Threw It All Away”
“As Hope and Promise Fade”
“Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”
“Doesn’t Remind Me”
“Fell on Black Days”
“Black Hole Sun”
“When I’m Down”
“Like a Stone”
“Let Your Eyes Wander”
“River of Deceit”
“I Am The Highway”
“Nothing Compares 2 U”