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LIVE REVIEW: Chris Cornell at Humphrey's

Shayne Kaye, Creative Commons

I had seen Chris Cornell, the singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, on two occasions. One show was at the House of Blues downtown. It was horrible. He had just released a record he did with Timbaland, the hip-hop singer/producer who has worked with Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Jay-Z, and lots of other big names. The record had a lot of hip-hop stuff that didn’t work. A year after his San Diego show, I was at a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Cornell was the musical guest, and he ended up doing a 45 minute set for the crowd outside.

Cornell’s show at Humphrey’s by the Bay on May 7th, was acoustic. I wasn’t sure what to expect. He came on at 8:30 and played for two hours straight. It was amazing. Cornell came out and talked about the crowd applauding and yelling. He said some of the yells sounded like distress. He then looked out at the boats (that get to enjoy the show for free), and talked about their distress calls.

Cornell looked like he just woke up, and was wearing jeans and a white, v-neck T-shirt. There were seven guitars behind him. It wasn’t until the 8th song that he changed from the one he used for the first set of songs.

The second song he did was Ground Zero, which was well received, considering everyone is still abuzz about Osama bin Laden being killed. I wondered if the red phone he had a stool next to him would be talked about at that point. He never acknowledged it for the entire show. Cornell went on a rant about how we got the guy we wanted (bin Laden), and we should bring all the troops back. The crowd erupted in cheers at that point.

There were lots of women yelling out stuff. One said, “I fucking love you, Chris!” The woman next to me said “I have way more class than that. I’d never yell out stupid stuff.” About four songs later, I heard her telling her husband the various sexual things she’d like to do to Cornell.

He pulled out the electric guitar for one song, a cover of State Trooper, which sounded great. He gave a funny intro about being younger and driving, and trying to avoid the cops.

A few in the crowd yelled out for Ty Cobb, and he said “There’s no way I can do that song. It’s so hard to play. You need that thin guitar, and…at this point…it would be physical comedy. I at least want this to resemble something like music.”

It was perfectly timed, when he did Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, that I could smell pot in the air. Cornell talked about smelling something cooking that smelled really good. The crowd laughed, thinking he was talking about marijuana. He went on to describe how delicious it smelled. It would’ve been a great segue into Hunger Strike, which he did near the end of his set.

He hit all the high notes when he did Say Hello to Heaven,andcovered Thank You by Led Zeppelin, andMichael Jackson’s Billie Jean, which he’s done before. It always sounds interesting done slow and acoustic.

He played the song from the Singles soundtrack, and talked about how filmmaker and former San Diegan, Cameron Crowe was a big support of Soundgarden. He said those songs were used in the movie even before the Seattle scene broke.

Speaking of Soundgarden, when he introduced the Black Hole Sun, he said “I used to say this was from the last Soundgarden album. I guess I still could, but…it won’t be the last. We’re working on a new Soundgarden record.” The crowd went nuts at this news.

He performed When I’m Down, and said that it wasn’t autobiographically. He then thought about it, and said “Well, some of it is.” It’s arguably one of the best anti-drinking songs you’ll ever hear.

At one point, the guitars were put down, and Cornell played a record that he sang along to. He said he’s never been able to find somebody that could play the piano parts right, so he laid it down on vinyl. He held up the record and joked about how his kids don’t even know what a record is.

At 10:15, I heard one guy tell his friend “We’re not leaving yet. I haven’t heard Outshined.” That song was never played, but Cornell said “They told me I have to stop at 10:30, but until then, we can make as much noise as we want.”

He talked about wanting to do some songs by friends of his. He did Pearl Jam’s Better Man, saying it was one of his favorite songs (guessing he didn’t realize Crowe and Eddie Vedder are former San Diegans).

It was strange when after that, he started to say “This next song, I can’t say it’s a favorite song of mine because I don’t have favorites” (I’m not sure he realized the last song he claimed was his favorite). He then went into a great version of John Lennon’s Imagine.

There were a couple of the “hits” that he didn’t do (Rusty Cage and Spoonman come to mind), but I don’t think anybody left this performance disappointed. Not even the guy that said he wanted to wait until he heard Outshined.