To say this is written with a heavy heart is a definite understatement. In retrospect, the gravity of that night’s performance, just 2 weeks before his passing, is deservedly ripe with conjectured symbolism. We in the audience were oblivious to the demons Chris Cornell was facing. Hidden from us all, we cheered for more as he lurked about on stage, mired in God only knows what. However, this is not a eulogy. Rather, let it serve as a celebration of his life and the millions around the world he inspired with his music.
The show, at the historic Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta, GA, kicked off with supporting group The Pretty Reckless, who… absolutely. killed. it! Ripping through their book of singles at a ferocious pace, Taylor Momsen’s stage presence, backed with melodic murder from the rest of the band, proved to all in attendance this actress turned rocker is legit! And the venue seemed appropriate in hind site. Built in 1928 first serving as a Shriner’s Temple, we were all transported to “church” as Chris Cornell let us listen in on his public confession, bearing his tormented soul to the “congregation”.
Save for the obvious decline in his nearly four octave range voice due to age and years of shredding his vocal chords touring the globe, Soundgarden was as I remembered the first time I saw them in the early 90’s in Houston TX. They actually opened that show for a group of fellow Seattle mates on the verge of breaking wide open seeing more and more radio play with their single “Jeremy”. It was certainly an epic event as Pearl Jam closed out their set and came back for an encore with Soundgarden members to play a few Temple of the Dog tunes, including “Hunger Strike” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”.
This night, however, the entirety of their catalogue was up for play, starting with their first LP, Ultramega OK, cranking out “Incessant Mace” and “All Your Lies”. Louder Than Love singles included “Ugly Truth”, “Hands All Over” with Badmotorfinger refrains “Rusty Cage”, “Outshined, “Slaves and Bulldozers” (encore), “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Drawing Flies” smattered in between. Their most successful album commercially was certainly, Superunknown. Their most evolved offering really got the room cranking with favorites, “My Wave”, “Fell On Black Days”, “Blackhole Sun”, Spoonman” and the foreshadowing (?), “The Day I Tried To Live”. Man! Down on the Upside contributed “Blow Up The Outside World” and “Burden In My Hand”. Their latest LP, King Animal, released in 2012 after reuniting from a 13 year break-up, lent “Crooked Steps” to the set list.
Mixed emotions certainly reside: happy to see the architects of a musical genre once more, but tinted with sorrow as there is no more. It certainly was fun while it lasted. RIP Chris Cornell.