Once again last Friday, I found myself climbing on board the 5.25 to Glasgow, accompanied by my good friend, Miss Rose Wine.
This time we were travelling to the civilised surroundings of Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, to be found at the top of the city’s Buchanan Street. It had been a long time since I had last visited the venue. (If memory serves me right, almost twenty years and the band on that occasion were Bjorn Again – no comment! I didn’t buy those tickets!!)
We arrived a little early for the show so headed into the Concert Hall’s café/restaurant. No queuing outside in the cold at this venue. Told you it was more civilised. Ha Ha. Both of us were in undecided mode as to what we wanted so I opted for a coffee and a scone while my friend chose to wash her scone and jam down with a glass of rose wine, hence the name! To each her own.
Just after seven we took our seats – yes, seats!! – in the auditorium. I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed that we were seated so far back but we were still afforded a perfect view of the stage.
Oh—and the reason for our visit? We were here to see Chris Cornell’s live acoustic show as part of his current Higher Truth tour.
Opening act was Fantastic Negrito. This tall slender bundle of charismatic energy declared to the crowd that he was going to “turn the bull shit into good shit” and he most certainly did. For over half an hour, with piano accompaniment, the audience were treated to high quality, straight from the heart, rootsy blues with a heart of soul. Highlights of Negrito’s short set for me were An Honest Man and Eat My Cancer. Perhaps the other stars of his set were the loud golf trousers that Negrito said he’d paid £14 for earlier in the day. Great opening act and would love to hear a longer set from him someday. Check this guy out..there’s quite a back story there.(http://www.fantasticnegrito.com)
Shortly after 8.30, Chris Cornell stepped out on stage to a rapturous welcome from the Scottish sell-out crowd. He opened his marathon set with Before We Disappear from his current album Higher Truth.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really known what to expect from the evening. Chris is better known as the front man of Seattle rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, neither of which cross my radar too often. His solo stuff though, I really enjoy and I love his Higher Truth album.
A few songs in, Chris Cornell took a moment to pay tribute to the late great Prince and performed a spine tingling version of Nothing Compares 2 U, a song made famous by Sinead O’Connor back in 1990. Definitely one of the highlights of the night.
Next up was one of my favourites but before he began the song, Chris treated the crowd to one of his many stories of the evening as he recounted a tale of how he came to purchase a mandolin some eighteen years ago then did nothing with it. He was accompanied on stage by Bryan Gibson, an incredible musician from South Carolina. On this occasion Bryan did the honours with the mandolin as they played the fabulous Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart. Love it!
With an extensive back catalogue to select from, the set was interspersed with acoustic covers of several Soundgarden and Audioslave classics. One of the highlights of the back catalogue was Black Hole Sun. Bryan is more famous as a cellist than a mandolin player and his performance on this one was breath taking. In fact, his performance all night was incredible! I didn’t know that a cello could be made to sound like that!
It goes almost without saying that Chris Cornell’s performance was fantastic. He is a super skilful musician and has a very distinctive fabulous voice that really lends itself to an acoustic setting. His versatility shone through when we were treated to two of his movie soundtrack songs, Misery Chain from 12 Years A Slave and You Know My Name from Casino Royale.
I was embarrassed thought by some of the audience’s reaction to Chris’s introduction to You Know My Name. The Queen may not be everyone’s favourite monarch but some of the loud comments were uncalled for. Give Chris his due, he ignored the drunken jeers and continued un-phased to make his point.
Wooden Jesus, a Temple of the Dog song, was another highlight of the main set. Fell a wee bit in love with this one.
The main set ended with a cover of The Beatles A Day In The Life.
Both Bryan and Chris earned themselves their first standing ovation of the night as they left the stage.
The encore, when they returned a few moments later was a lengthy one – five songs! Chris’s cover of One (U2 chords and Metallica lyrics) was perhaps my highlight of the night. Stunning performance! The mammoth two and a half hour, twenty seven song set drew to a close with a heartfelt dedication to the people of Paris and Brussels as Chris played Higher Truth. A perfect song to end a perfect show on.
Everyone in the room was on their feet once again. A stunningly epic acoustic night that’s sure to go down in Glasgow’s musical history books. I’m proud to say, “I was there.”
photographs courtesy of Robert W Miller