Review: Chris Cornell Blows Minds In Sweden, Where Stripped-Down Performances Began

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Edited by Brett Buchanan, photo by Hanna Graf

I saw Soundgarden live in Stockholm in 2013 and to be honest: it wasn’t great. A half empty, worn down ice hockey arena with terrible sound conditions made both the audience and singer Chris Cornell clearly disappointed, and the performance suffered accordingly. It was competent, but uninteresting.

What I witnessed in March 2016 couldn’t have been more different.
Stockholms konserthus (Stockholm Concert Hall) in Sweden on March 30th was the fourth European stop on Chris Cornell’s Higher Truth world tour. A solo acoustic show with ideal conditions and setting, a well-chosen venue, and a happy and chatty Chris Cornell in his element. This is where he belongs. It was a mind-blowing magnificent show.

It is in this stripped down format that Cornell really opens up and shows the depth of his talent. Occasionally he is joined on stage by talented multi-instrumentalist Bryan Gibson, mostly on cello. Gibson really lifts the songs he participate in, especially when it comes to the arrangements.

It was in Stockholm it began, Cornell comes back to that several times. His first acoustic solo show took place at a small venue here in 2006, and he’s not letting us forget how grateful he is and how ”it’s because of you guys” he has continued to perform shows like this.

Chris Cornell is a first class performer. For 2.5 hours he delivers incredible set of songs from his solo albums, as well as from his bands Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, and also a few covers. And he nails almost every one of them. Cornell’s greatest quality is, and has always been, his voice. It’s as razor-sharp, flawless and powerful as ever. Time hasn’t erased anything, rather, it has added to it.

I would have been happy with just Chris Cornell, a microphone and a guitar. A plain performance of his songs and nothing more. That would have been great and I would have gone home satisfied. It’s his charisma and stage presence, the chemistry and the moments, and details, that made this evening great.

Soundgarden’s song “Fell on Black Days” got new lease on life with an inspired arrangement with amazing cello by Bryan Gibson, and became one the best moments of the evening. Cornell gave an emotional introduction and performance of Audioslave’s ”Wide Awake”. He did not forget to mention it was co-written by Tom Morello, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Today, he connects it to the Flint water crisis. And, as always, the acoustic version of Audioslave’s ”Doesn’t Remind Me” was my favorite song in the set. I have only one minor objection. Soundgarden’s heavy ”Rusty Cage” didn’t exactly fit the stripped down format, as well as a couple of other songs that felt flat acoustic.

Because of my experience with the introverted Cornell from Soundgarden, I was taken aback by how funny he is. He connects with the audience, makes jokes, and tells personal anecdotes, both made up and real. Several times he had the whole audience laughing out loud. This was something I never could have imagined.

Setlist:

1. Before We Disappear

2. Can’t Change Me

3. The Times They Are A-Changin’
(Bob Dylan cover)

4. As Hope & Promise Fade

5. Wide Awake
(Audioslave song)

6. Billie Jean
(Michael Jackson cover)

7. Say Hello 2 Heaven
(Temple of the Dog song)

8. Nothing Compares 2 U
(Prince cover)

9. When I’m Down

10. Fell on Black Days
(Soundgarden song)

11. Wooden Jesus
(Temple of the Dog song)

12. Black Hole Sun
(Soundgarden song)

13. Hunger Strike
(Temple of the Dog song)

14. Blow Up the Outside World
(Soundgarden song)

15. One
(U2 music with Metallica lyrics)

16. Rusty Cage
(Soundgarden song)

17. Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart

18. I Am the Highway
(Audioslave song)

19. Worried Moon

20. Doesn’t Remind Me
(Audioslave song)

21. Imagine
(John Lennon cover)

Encore:
22. I Threw It All Away
(Bob Dylan cover)

23. Scream

24. Josephine

25. Higher Truth