It's somewhat unusual for an alternative rock hero to be performing at a London theatre which is currently showing the Wizard of Oz, and tonight Chris Cornell may have entertained the Palladium’s most diverse crowd.
Yet there could be few better venues for this intimate acoustic performance, part of Cornell’s Songbook tour that he happily proclaims he’s been touring for a year and a half.
Like Dorothy - he’s not in Kansas anymore, but Cornell seems perfectly at ease with the London crowd; far more chatty and jokey than most American performers are usually comfortable to be. He opens the show with tracks taken from his solo albums, with ‘Scar On The Sky’ standing out as one of the better of his quirkily structured songs. Things soon get underway however as ‘Wide Awake’, Audioslave’s powerful protest against the Bush Government’s failings following Hurricane Katrina, is given an intimate but visceral going-over in a way that only Cornell’s legendary gristly voice can manage.
From here on in its a treasure trove of classic tunes from back in the day. A hat is tipped to Mother Love Bone with several of Andy Wood’s numbers played, with ‘Man of Golden Words’ standing out. The first of Temple of the Dog’s numbers then surfaces with ‘Hunger Strike’ a beautiful lost gem.
The wealth of Soundgarden songs that follow then fall like blessings, with ‘Burden In My Hand’ standout in this acoustic format. Buoyed by the crowds response, Cornell then blends his history with arguably a best-of his career selection, taking in rarities ‘Call Me A dog’, the sublime ‘I Am The Highway’ and an ambient, quirky version of ‘Blow Up The Outside World’ throwing in Led Zep’s ‘Thank You’ in for good measure.
The choices are perfect and no one would have complained if the night had ended there. Yet Cornell seems intent on delivering more and a five song encore ensues, offering a toned down version of the commercially dubious ‘Scream’, a blues cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and the obligatory ‘Black Hole Sun’.
Thoroughly satisfied, this crowd leaves having heard one of the best voices in rock and perhaps one of the most underrated canons of work in music. With such a wealth of wonderful songs, it’s no surprise Cornell is keen to tour this material for such a long period. And with that voice and this material, he’ll rarely been missing an audience wanting to hear them.