Chris Cornell

Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW
December 11, 2015

Rhp 9895 Rh Web Chris Cornell/Rhiannon Hopley

Despite almost 47 years as a Sydneysider I had never been to an actual performance within the Opera House before this evening, and the Harbour City was putting on a cracker of an evening as I settled into my seat with a glass of Young Henry’s to watch a performance by one of the best rock voices of his generation. When the lights came down, Chris Cornell entered immediately from stage left, giving a welcoming wave, dressed casually in black. He picked up a smallish guitar and began with ‘Before We Disappear’ from Higher Truth, kicking off an intimate performance that lasted more than two hours. Warm, engaging, funny and entertaining, along with his occasional stage partner Brian Gibson, Cornell burned through some incredible arrangements of some brilliant songs from both his own catalogue and those of Prince, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and others.

The early set was devoted to his solo work and a detour through a variation on Dylan’s ‘Times They Are A-Changin” with Cornell’s own take on the lyrics. It was six songs in before the first Soundgarden track appeared, a brooding version of ‘Fell on Black Days’ that rose from the gloom into a sparkling cover of Zeppelin’s ‘Thank You’. Soon after came one of the set’s highlights as he donned a headset mic. “I’m not ashamed,” he said of his U2 fandom – and why should he be? He’s Chris fucking Cornell – explaining the origin of his mash-up of the tune and music of their ‘One’ with the lyrics of Metallica’s. It was a truly clever and inventive moment, of which there were many – a stripped-down version of MJ’s ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Misery Chain’ accompanied only by a backing tape (a turntable, I should say), subverting ‘Rusty Cage’ by performing it in the style of Johnny Cash’s cover. Throughout the night he kept a close rapport with the sold-out room, setting aside his rock-god Soundgarden persona for that of troubadour and raconteur, thoroughly enjoying sharing his art.

The main set wrapped with a glorious rendition of ‘A Day in the Life’ with he and Gibson pushing the sonic capabilites of their respective instruments to the hilt as they delved into the psychedelic heart of the song. Another Dylan song introduced the encore ahead of the very pretty ‘Josephine’ and Higher Truth’s title track closed a wonderful performance from one of the best singer-song writers in the business today.

Before We Disappear
Can’t Change Me
As Hope and Promise Fade
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Back)
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart
Fell on Black Days
Thank You
Doesn’t Remind Me
Call Me a Dog
Blow Up the Outside World
Let Your Eyes Wander
You Know My Name
Nothing Compares 2 U
Rusty Cage
Misery Chain
I am the Highway
Billie Jean
Hunger Strike
Black Hole Sun
Worried Moon
Wooden Jesus
A Day in the Life

I Threw it All Away
High Truth