Chris Cornell brought his iconic voice to Belfast for the first time on Sunday night, and after a career spanning thirty years, is still improving his craft.
Best known as the frontman of grunge gods Soundgarden, Cornell is equipped with one of the most powerful rock voices of his, or indeed any generation. When let loose in the magnificent acoustics of the Ulster Hall with nothing but an acoustic guitar and an occasional cello to keep it company, the effect is stunning.
Although touring his fifth solo record Higher Truth, Cornell left the vast majority of his set free to play a catalogue of songs from his entire career. Songs made famous by his time at the helm of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog were prominent fixtures. The arrangements were kept simple for the most part, exposing the most compelling aspects of his work in their purest forms.
It has become a bit of a cliché to deem an acoustic show as ‘intimate’, but Cornell made it exactly that by arriving in a playful mood. Most songs were precluded by their back-story, and his exquisite wit had a jubilant audience in bursts of laughter. A Pixar-esque thought about how his guitars “give each other s***” when they’re packed away in the tour bus after a show went down particularly well. Cornell was more than happy to play suggestions barked at him from the audience, obliging to requests to play When I’m Down and Sweet Euphoria.
Cornell’s takes on cover versions were excellent. Whether he was updating the lyrics of The Times They Are A-Changin’ or singing Metallica’s lyrics to U2’s version of One, his smart tinkering was that of a man who is by no means resting on his laurels. A tribute to Prince in the form of his own version of Nothing Compares 2 U was poignant and celebratory in equal measure.
This was a show that was striking, uplifting and downright funny. At two-and-a-half hours long, it was an exhibition of a stellar career in which Cornell has faced his demons and emerged to tell the tale.
Chris Cornell Setlist (Belfast Ulster Hall 24/04/2016)
Before We Disappear
‘Til the Sun Comes Back Around
Be Yourself (Audioslave song)
Can’t Change Me
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan cover – updated to Times They Are A-Changin’ Back)
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden song)
Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave song)
Say Hello 2 Heaven (Temple of the Dog song)
As Hope and Promise Fade
Blow Up the Outside World (Soundgarden song)
Let Your Eyes Wander
You Know My Name
When I’m Down
Rusty Cage (Soundgarden song – cover of Johnny Cash version)
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden song)
Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog song)
Wooden Jesus (Temple of the Dog song)
A Day in the Life (Beatles Cover)
One (U2 cover with Metallica lyrics)
I Am the Highway