On a recent Wednesday evening, seven acoustic guitars ringed the Granada stage waiting for Chris Cornell to have his way with them. It was a different live context in which to hear the singer since for the bulk of his performances he’s backed by a full band — Soundgarden, Audioslave, for example. Needless to say, those in attendance were alive with anticipatory energy; when Cornell took the stage he received a standing ovation before plucking a single string or singing a note.
With a raconteur’s sensibility, Cornell chatted up the audience “[I’m going to play] new songs, old songs, in between songs, and something from Prince,” he said before opening with “Before We Disappear” off his just released fourth solo album Higher Truth. The record only became available six days before his Granada appearance so for some, no doubt, it was their first exposure to it. And while the fantastic, foreboding “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” was the first song released ahead of Higher Truth, the lilting “Before We Disappear” could well have been its premier single.
Next he trotted out “Can’t Change Me” from 1999’s Euphoria Morning, followed by a version of Bob Dylan’s “The Time’s They Are a Changin’.” “I took the best song in history and rewrote it, because, why not?” Cornell said playfully before strumming the first chords of the recognizable 1960s melody. Other gems in the two-and-a-half-hour set included tunes from his extensive catalog — “Sweet Euphoria,” “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart,” “Like a Stone,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Hunger Strike,” to name a few — as well as arresting covers of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Prince’s tear-jerker “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Dressed casually in a gray T-shirt and jeans, Cornell kept the evening intimate and relaxed, intermingling stories and self-deprecating humor between songs. For several numbers, the multi-octave singer was joined onstage by cellist Brian Gibson; his bowing on “Fell On Black Days” added an elegant fragility to the Soundgarden hit and angelic aural beauty to “Worried Moon” from Higher Truth.
It was long past the Granada’s noise curfew when Cornell played the final number of his four-song encore, “Higher Truth.” By then, it was undeniable that Chris Cornell is one hell of a live solo performer and one of the most dynamic singer/songwriters creating music today.