A couple of weeks ago Chris Cornell was on stage in front of 100,000 rabid Rock fans at the legendary Download Festival fronting his band, Soundgarden at their first show on UK soil in 15 years. In mid-July they return to headline the prestigious Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park, London. In between these two gargantuan Rockfests, Cornell laid on half a dozen special one man acoustic shows in celebration of his critically acclaimed Songbook album with Newcastle being one of the lucky beneficiaries.
As it nears its centenary, The City Hall is the perfect place for a show like this. The legacy of the historical performances that have encapsulated audiences over the decades is imbued into the fabric of its ornate structure. With its elaborate interior and atmospheric setting and acoustics that many new venues can only dream about, this was destined to be a special night.
Stripped of any Rock baggage, Cornell was left with just his acoustic guitar and his voice and what a voice it was, so soulful, rich and emotive. Cornell is one of the finest singers of his generation and he just gets better with age.
Across the two and a quarter hour show Cornell dipped into his extensive catalogue delivering skeletal versions from Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun”), the classic “Hunger Strike” from Temple of the Dog to” Wide Awake”, a startling observation about the impact of Hurricane Katrina by Audioslave, the super group collaboration he undertook with Rage Against The Machine.
Cornell`s own solo material shimmered with passion with “Can`t Change Me”, showcasing a delectable melody and haunting vocal. A couple of well-chosen covers from Led Zeppelin (“Thank You”) and The Beatles (“A Day in the Life”) slipped in seamlessly alongside his own songs.
Acoustic shows often have a nasty habit of running out of steam and can be a touch one dimensional in the wrong hands. Cornell, however avoided the trap with ease delivering a classy and inspiring set showcasing a different side of his talent to that shown in his day job. His amiable rapport and jocular banter was returned tenfold by the crowd, culminating with Ben from Newcastle joining him onstage for an unplanned “Outshined” and no-one, least of all Cornell was expecting such an accomplished duet with the Geordie fan. The rapturous reception he received at the City Hall will undoubtedly encourage a swift return to the region and with any luck, fronting Soundgarden.