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Story by Brett Taylor
Distancing himself once again from the past, Cornell's latest album Scream recorded with hip-hop producer Timbaland has been panned universally by critics as well as hardcore fans. Scream easily has become the rock and roll punch line for 2009 even drawing criticism from other artists such as Trent Reznor. Regardless, Cornell stands behind the new material, and feels that it will eventually be regarded as misunderstood originality that the public is not ready for yet. It seemed that most of the Pabst Theatre on Friday night used the "originality" of Scream to get beers and go the bathroom.
After a full Axl Rose size intermission between opening bands, Cornell finally took the stage with a new song "Part of Me" from Scream. He lurked from side to side of the stage much like a mellow caged dog, greeting fans and getting those up close involved. After launching into "You Know My Name" from the 007 Soundtrack, Cornell put the crowd onto its feet with a rousing sing along version of "Hunger Strike" from his side project Temple of the Dog. This is where he really shines and is fully in his comfort zone. It is hard for anyone to deny the power of his voice singing the chorus of "...I'm goin' hungry..." and not have an immediate nostalgic love affair with Doc Martens and an old flannel shirt.
One distraction from the power of grunge, was the choice of backing band by Cornell. These guys are definitely top musicians with chops that are out of this world. The problem is that they come from more of the "Guitar Hero" generation than Generation X. I haven't seen so much preening and rock star posing since I was at a KISS concert in junior high. The band was all smiles and jokes as they ran around the stage from one side to another flicking guitar pics into the crowd at an alarming rate. Even the drummer was throwing guitar pics from behind the kit during song breaks? With all of this joviality it was hard to really enjoy and encompass all the angst and emotion that a song like "Rusty Cage" from Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger can bring you.
During a middle break, Cornell allowed for him to really show off the star of the night, his voice. Armed with just an acoustic guitar he took the crowd down memory lane acoustically covering such classics as "Seasons," "Fell On Black Days," Audioslave's "Like A Stone" and finishing up with "Sunshower" his first release as a solo artist.
Unfortunately, Cornell wasn't just serving up this nostalgia, he continued to push new songs into the set, and genuinely seemed happy to do so. Maybe someday I will look back at this new material and realize how naive I was, but until then keep me informed of any more news on a Soundgarden reunion.
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