Live Photo Essay: Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Toronto, Ontario
April 20, 2011

Quite possibly the coolest voice ever to emerge from the heavy music scene of the 90’s or dare I say EVER, Chris Cornell pulled up a stump in Toronto, and just let us have it straight up. As a HUGE Soundgarden fan I instantly was taken by Cornell’s singing, songwriting and choice of band mates.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of watchin some guy sit there and strum on an acoustic guitar. I have even gone so far as to say I can’t stand acoustic guitars and that’s just something that started as a kid and never changed. That’s not to say I hate anyone strapped into an acoustic guitar cuz when I let myself go and just listen to a lone fucker strummin his heart out with no band, no bells and no whistles, I usually find talent and appreciation within the scene I am taking in. But we’re talking about Chris Cornell here. Because he is my absolute favourite singer, I figured I’d go see what he can do when he’s all by himself.

To commemorate this very special day of 420, I fired up a nice big gagger and retarded myself for the upcoming festivities. Not something I usually do before a show, as I normally like to keep the ability to speak and think competently. But fuckit, it’s 420 so I’m on board. On with the show…

First off, the shooting arrangements were horrible. 5th and 6th songs, from the soundboard. The lights were all very low key, reds and blues, and my longest lens is a 150mm which is nowhere near powerful enough to zoom in from what might as well be a mile away. There were a couple guys there with 400mm F 2.8 ass kickers, the one guy looked like he had a telescope and shooting 94 frames per second… I’d like to see what he got for pics!

So Chris came out, grabbed a guitar and played “I Am the Highway” before announcing how much he loves Toronto.. loves Canada really. Figuring how he must have hopped the border back in the day before making it big to play any number of Vancouver’s grungy dives, he probably knew before the big time, Canada is a pretty cool place to hang your hat. Then to have traveled the world to all of the most impressive places and the other side of the coin to the shittiest dives, to come full circle and announce you “love Canada” says a lot.

Definitely the highlight of the night arrived when Chris pulled out the old Temple of the Dog favourite, “Hunger Strike”. He announced it as a “two person song” encouraging us to sing along. I’d recently mentioned in my Bob Seger review how I’d only heard a whole venue actually SING an entire song once or twice, well people TRIED to sing “Hunger Strike” and for the most part failed miserably. Here’s a tune that really showcases what a singer like Chris Cornell can do, and we’ve got umpteen knobs, including myself, trying to chime in with the “backing vocals” which are more like a guitar solo than a voice fill in. It was actually quite comical. Every time he sang “I’m going hungry”, the place went nuts and a standing ovation took the crowd and put em on their feet.

After telling a little story about how “State Trooper” came to be, Chris slapped his arm and announced he’s got “clean blood” before trotting into an electric version of the song complete with a trippy, funky, feedback laden solo laid down over a looping of the western feeling rambling guitar which carried the song.

Chris told the crowd how he thought people playing along to tracks was “fuckin cheating” and proceeded to sing, guitarless, alongside a canned piano track for a song which title escapes me. Even though Chris was breaking all the rules I’ve got set up for music, he broke em in a way that just said “fuckit, here I am, like it or not”… well I can safely say everyone was lovin it.

A couple of covers he pulled out that were just great to hear: “Comfortably Numb”, the old Pink Floyd classic from the album “The Wall” but the real ass kicker was John Lennon’s “Imagine”. One of my all time favourite tunes. To hear Chris Cornell turn “Imagine” into his own song was like listening to a little slice of heaven.

Bad shooting conditions aside, my first sighting of Chris Cornell on a stage was a damn fine one that is makin my trigger finger real itchy for the upcoming Soundgarden tour… I can’t wait.

Mike Forbes
Rebel Reviewer Dot Com