Chris Cornell + Paul Freeman @ Birmingham Symphony Hall, Tuesday 19th June 2012


Review by Rich Ward

Hot on the heels of his other band’s set at Download, the Soundgarden frontman returned to the Midlands with a more intimate set at the Symphony Hall as part of his Acoustic Songbook tour.

Firstly, a special mention must also go to Paul Freeman who filled the support slot. He was joined by Georgia Herd for an excellent version of The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ & Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’. Deservedly, he did a roaring trade at the merchandise desk during the interval selling copies of his latest EP. He’s definitely one to watch and would be wise to make a return to the Midlands to capitalise on all the new fans he acquired from the show, myself included.

After a short interval, a casual and confident Chris Cornell sauntered on to stage and seemed to take a few moments to soak in the atmosphere. After a quick explanation about what the evening was about, he kicked off proceedings with a previously unreleased song, ‘Roads We Choose’ followed by ‘Ground Zero’. Audioslave’s ‘Dandelion’ proved to be an early favourite lending itself well to the acoustic format, and eliciting the loudest audience response so far. Although this highpoint was soon surpassed with a rendition of ‘Man Of Golden Words’ which was simply magnificent. Cornell’s voice on the Mother Love Bone track is stunning and a couple of verses of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ added on, is the icing on the cake.

Rather than have a backing tape to play along to when he wants more than just the acoustic, Cornell has gone one better and has a record player with some pressed up vinyl. The first is that of Natasha Schneider playing piano for ‘When I’m Down’ allowing Chris to put his guitar to one side and just sing. This is followed by ‘Scream’ which he jokes that while changing the vinyl that he might just put on some Sabbath and chill.

All areas of his career are covered well and the Soundgarden songs are no exception. ‘Fell On Black Days’, and ‘Burden In My Hand’ are timeless, while ‘Mind Riot’ features some interesting tunings. A cover of Led Zep’s ‘Thank You’ is a welcome surprise.

By the time set closer ‘Blow Up The Outside World’ comes round, Cornell has been onstage almost two hours. With its grungy vocals and looping guitar effects it seemed a little misplaced amongst the rest of the set and tended to drag on (bums were beginning to ache). The encore, however, redressed this with ‘Black Hole Sun’, the Beatles ‘Day In The Life’ and finished with a super rendition of ‘Imagine’

Tonight, we were all treated to a well balanced and unique set from a formidable songwriter and performer.  Needless to say, it was certainly a better and more satisfying option than watching a certain football match.