Grunge may feel like it belongs to a bygone era, but if recent revivalist motions are anything to go by – not least the Soundgarden slot at Download 2012 – then it is far from forgotten. Just looking around the room tonight, it is clear that Chris Cornell’s own brand of low-tempo rock, is far from being a museum piece.
This two and half hour set, littered with such a diverse mix of songs taken from Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and Cornell’s solo albums, retains such a tremendous cohesion in the majestic but remarkably intimate climes of the Palladium. This is enforced by the fact that Cornell requests that no pictures are to be taken during his acoustic set, although some members of the crowd play the wilful ignorance card, and do so anyway. Cornell himself is stripped down to a number of acoustic guitars, and is remarkably at ease in this incredibly jovial environment, playing to a crowd that he treats like close acquaintances.
The highlight of the evening is undoubtedly Cornell’s voice, which not only retains an enormous potential for emotional depth, but is still incredibly agile. In addition to this, the evening is filled with zeniths, and the long set only occasionally wanders into realms of tedium; even songs off 2009’s dire Scream sound rejuvenated here tonight. Not only does Cornell reach into all of the dark corners of his repertoire, but he also pulls out some wonderful covers, including a beautiful rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Thank You and a suitably schizophrenic version of A Day In The Life (of Beatles fame).
There is an honesty that hangs over everything that happens tonight; Cornell’s deeply sincere and occasionally wretched lyrics are as frank as his easy banter with the audience. What’s more, the Palladium is packed with people who, despite Cornell’s recent maligned associations with Timbaland, have nothing but the utmost respect for this man. This is demonstrated in the huge reception that every song receives, including the usually lacklustre Ground Zero.
A consummate professional and an endearing performer (and character) make these grand walls seem a lot closer than they actually are. The beauty of tonight is not lost on anyone, and it stands as a reminder of how songs with such resonance can never remain locked into any era.
By David Keevill