Chris Cornell's transition from Soundgarden frontman to solo artist isn't going as planned. We were supposed to understand Cornell's digression from his former band as some sort of maturation. In return, the talented singer was supposed to deliver a convincing argument for going solo in the form of a powerful live show. Unfortunately, Cornell didn't deliver the musical goods at the Odeon, and the result was a surprisingly disappointing show.
For just over an hour and a half, Cornell alienated his longtime fans with a set filled with too many awkward, occasionally embarrassing moments and not enough rock. Clutching the mic stand with one hand and the mic with the other, the singer appeared very uncomfortable onstage without his guitar. And on the only track for which he did have his guitar -- a rendition of the Soundgarden hit "Fell on Black Days" -- he amateurishly stumbled his way through it, singing mostly off-key.
Fortunately, his band returned and kicked out an amazing, brooding version of "Boot Camp" (from Soundgarden's last studio album Down on the Upside). New material from Cornell's solo disc, Euphoria Morning, however, couldn't stand up to the Soundgarden songs he played. When he sang the bluesy tune "When I'm Down," Cornell simply went through the motions, and his lackluster delivery paled compared to the way he used to sing with Soundgarden.
The exception was "Follow My Way," a hard rock jam that seemed to unfetter Cornell's spirit, as he wailed and his band delivered a muscular punch. At this point, it was obvious that Cornell could deliver the kind of high-flying guitars, driving bass lines, and hoarse vocals that made Soundgarden so compelling. It's understandable that Cornell doesn't want to just recreate the same sound his former band made popular, but that doesn't mean that we should have to lower our expectations, especially when he performs live. The inclusion of "Seasons" (from the Singles soundtrack) and the Temple of the Dog track "All Night Thing" was appealing for no other reason than that they're seldom performed live. But on the whole, the concert was a forgettable, disappointing showing by an artist who has rarely disappointed in the past. -- John Benson
Gartner Auditorium, Cleveland Museum of Art
Jazz guitarist John Scofield has always had a healthy fascination for rock and funk. He's never shied away from bombastic distortion or syncopated grooves in his music. While it was less pronounced on his beautiful, appropriately titled 1996 effort Quiet, Scofield uncorked the nasty funk once again for his latest album, 1997's Agogo -- a collaboration with neo-groove tourhorses Medeski, Martin & Wood. The tunes and the brazen sound from this deceptively smart, instantly likable recording dominated the concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
That Scofield took the stage with Boulware, Browden & Logan -- organist Will Boulware, drummer Marlon Browden, and bassist Steve Logan (a Clevelander) -- in place of MM&W hardly discouraged him from ripping through Agogo burners like "Boozer" and more atmospheric pieces like "Kubrick," a dedication to late film director Stanley Kubrick. These tunes came off better than the skeletal, thinner, non-Agogo material, such as the Browden/Scofield collaboration "Marlon 2." Lyrical and introspective one moment, fiery the next, Scofield gave a solid performance rife with subtle distortion. Believe it or not, Scofield has even expressed admiration for Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, and he adapted Morello's string-scratching technique (heard to great effect on Rage's "Bulls on Parade") to the wah-wah pedal for his own performance.
Unfortunately, due to the absolutely lousy acoustics at Gartner Auditorium for this sort of thing, much of what Scofield played sounded murky and indistinct. Scofield, however, fared better than comrades Boulware and Logan, whose keyboard and bass lines practically disappeared in the hall's walls. Only Browden, a relentless young drummer, sounded clear all night. All of which left the crowd in the awkward position of having to listen while at the same time imagining how this might sound in a space built to carry a loud electric group like Scofield's. It was somewhat by default, then, that the lovely acoustic number "Hope Springs Eternal," a bonus track from the Japanese release of Agogo, won out as tune of the night. -- Aaron Steinberg
By the time headliners Danzig took the stage at the Agora, burly singer Glenn Danzig (who performed with openers Samhain) sounded spent. On the opening number, "Satan's Child" (the title track from Danzig's new album), his voice dropped off at the point where he should have sung in a soft, raspy whisper. On other new songs, dynamics were passed off as fluctuations in volume, and one bellowing howl blended in with the next. The mediocrity of these songs detracted from the singer's visceral showmanship, which was generally on target. At its best, Danzig played up its creepy side and burned through "classics" such as "Mother," "Long Way Back From Hell," and the Misfits' "Green Hell," all of which featured better songwriting than any of the new material. "Twist of Cain" drove the audience into such a devotional state that Danzig simply held out his microphone as the crowd chanted along -- but then, maybe he'd just lost his voice by that point.
Far more entertaining was the reunion of Samhain. The seminal horror-punks, who formed in the wake of the highly influential Misfits, gave a lesson in rock and roll primitivism. Songs such as "All Murder, All Guts, All Fun" and "He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named" sounded more like Bauhaus than any heavy metal band. With its members splattered from head to chest with fake blood, Samhain's striking appearance complemented its B-movie-inspired compositions. By evoking the same themes that pervade a movie like Bloodsucking Freaks, Samhain possessed a campy sense of abandon that made it succeed where headlining Danzig did not.
Hatebreed opened with a set of Slayer-inspired hardcore that failed to impress. Jamey Jasta's monotonous expressions of anger and brutality -- he sounded more like a self-righteous dad as he screamed -- ultimately dulled any overtones of urgency or rebellion to which the band might have aspired. -- Matt Trahan