All photos taken by Dustin Halter Photography exclusively for AlternativeNation.net
“This song is for all of us,” said Chris Cornell prior to breaking into “Higher Truth” to close Thursday night’s show at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. June 23rd, 2016 wasn’t the easiest of days for those that call Charm City home. Yet, 2,200 likeminded people gathered in a majestic setting for a night of melodious relief.
The show opened with Fantastic Negrito setting the mood with his soothing vocals. Negrito showcased songs off his new record The Last Days Of Oakland, in addition to covering Lead Belly/ Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”
Shortly before 9pm, the lights went down and on walked an enthusiastic Cornell. Prior to kicking off with “Before We Disappear,” Cornell explained how the song has to do with taking nothing for granted. A subtle, yet power message to kick things off.
There are two incredibly unique elements to seeing Cornell solo in these intimate settings; to start – songs from his entire career are showcased and the second is that Cornell often shares some casual behind the scenes stories, related to the song at hand. The energetic crowd welcomed all of this and sincerely appreciated Cornell’s lighthearted, but profound words of wisdom that were so appropriately placed.
Cornell explained how his first solo record, Euphoria Morning, was scary terrain for him to navigate at first. Having been a part of Soundgarden for many years prior to only seeing his name on the t-shirts at the merch stand, Cornell figured there’s only one courageous way to go about releasing solo material; be yourself. Enter – “Can’t Change Me.”
Joining Cornell on numerous songs throughout the night was South Carolina native, Bryan Gibson, who served as a complimentary swiss army knife. Gibson bounced between keys, mandolin and cello throughout the 27 song set, where he truly added beauty to already beautiful songs. His contributions to “Fell on Black Days,” and “Black Hole Sun,” created a new breathtaking layer.
Cornell’s vocals pair so well with the art-laced venues being played on this tour. His voice is an instrument unto itself that he pilots like a fighter jet. It’s so easy to get caught up in the velvet that is Cornell’s voice that you can lose focus on how good of a musician he is too. Ever try to sing and play guitar at the same time on an up-tempo Soundgarden song? Good luck. Somehow, Cornell effortlessly pulls it off, stripping the songs down to their purest forms, allowing acoustic renditions of “Rusty Cage,” and “Blow Up The Outside World” to take off in their own right. All while preserving the original nature of the song.
Over the course of the two plus hour set, every corner of Cornell’s career was touched upon. That’s a resume and catalog that includes, Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo material. In terms of covers, we were treated to Prince, Bob Dylan, Mad Season John Lennon and Otis Redding classics, plus the out-of-this world U2/Metallica “One” mash-up.
Although every concert is about the songs, this night was also about the meaning and the emotion of music. For me, Cornell’s Higher Truth record brings me back to taking my 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter to “school” in the morning. Back when my son was even younger, I’d get a pit in my stomach every morning we had to drop him off. Music would always be the saving grace. A good song to accompany me would offer a different perspective on the experience and sometimes, the entire day. So what was played was usually very thought out. I tend to play some new records until the needle falls off upon their release. I have to get acquainted with every note, melody and lyric of each song. In doing this, my little man grew to love “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart,” aka – the opening track on Higher Truth. The release timing of this record came just as he was starting to grasp the concept of song and what music is. For a while, as we’d pull out of the driveway, he would say, “Dada, new Chris Cawnell please.” You got it little dude.
Two weeks ago, I packed up our family house as we are moving, mostly to accommodate little ones number three and four, arriving in October. As I locked the door for the last time, I stared blankly at the small place atop a hill we called home for the past four years and experienced a cyclone of mixed emotions. I couldn’t wait to move, but then all of the memories we made surfaced, scrolling through my head like a picture book. For some reason, I put on the song “Higher Truth” on as I put the car in reverse and inched out the driveway for the last time. I have no idea why I picked that song. I hadn’t actually listened to it for a few weeks. It was totally mindless. In fact, I thought I was done with all the sentimental, get melancholy mess. That already happened to me the night before. Regardless, the emotion of “Higher Truth” triggered it as well, but more as a joyous highlight-film backtrack.
Coincidentally, Cornell explained Thursday night how “Higher Truth” is about completely living in the moment. It’s something he said his kids have taught him and how allowing yourself to be so present, makes you feel like an innocent kid too. A point I could 100% relate to as I was not very good at living in the moment before having kids myself.
The truth, the higher truth, was something everyone in Baltimore could connect with on Thursday night. It’s probably something everyone was craving. Thankfully, we all had it for about three hours, serendipitously, in a place where it was needed. How fitting the song “Higher Truth” and the Higher Truth tour would close out the day.
Before We Disappear
Can’t Change Me
Til The Sun Comes Around
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
Like a Stone
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan cover)
Fell on Black Days
Call Me a Dog
River of Deceit (Mad Season cover)
Doesn’t Remind Me
Blow Up the Outside World
Let Your Eyes Wander
Thank You (Led Zeppelin cover)
You Know My Name
I Am the Highway
When I’m Down
Black Hole Sun
One (Metallica cover)
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding cover)
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