Chris Cornell Slows Things Down for an Acoustic Show at the Arsht Center

Were there music snobs in 1790 who went to hear Mozart play in a fancy opera house and said, "Bah, I remember when he only played small, grimy pubs."

Sure, seeing Chris Cornell play in as clean and classy an establishment as the Arsht Center last night was a strange experience. I still think of him as the hairy lead singer of '90s grunge rockers Soundgarden, but he's had several musical lives since then, leading Audioslave and putting out five solo albums. And these varied experiences helped Chris Cornell seem at complete ease last night as he played a nearly solo acoustic show for over two and a half hours.

It was the fans who came to rock who were a bit more confused about how to act in the pristine concert hall. Ushers told people to put away the lighters they raised above their heads during ballads. Rowdier fans were shushed by other audience members who wanted to catch every subtlety in Cornell's distinctive raspy wail. You couldn't blame either fan. It's fun to talk to your friends at a show, and it's also worth appreciating a musician at the top of his game.
The Higher Truth Tour featured Cornell performing a retrospective of his two-and-a-half-decade career. He played Soundgarden and Audioslave hits as well as tracks from Temple of the Dog and from his solo records. He even played a bunch of cover songs, from Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" with a lyrical reworking.

Still, the impressive range of Cornell's set list didn't stop fans from shouting out song titles they wanted to hear. He had to explain that many of the songs in his catalog don't translate into this format where it was just his voice, an acoustic guitar, and the occasional cellist accompanying him. Professor Cornell also taught us the cello could be a rocking instrument, as it was for the night's renditions of "Black Hole Sun" and a cover of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life."

Cornell opened the night by apologizing for canceling a show at the same venue two years earlier due to a bad shoulder. He said he hoped to make up for it, and the Seattle native revealed that this was a kind of a hometown show for him. Not only do he and his family now live in Miami for half the year but he also wrote many of the songs on his new album in the 305. 
His performance was powerful enough that it not only absolved him of skipping out in 2013 but also of many of his other past sins. His voice filled the room to the highest balcony four stories above the stage, satisfying all his fans, even those bummed that there was no designated mosh pit in the hall.

Chris Cornell Set List:

- "Before We Disappear"
- "Can't Change Me"
- "Moonchild"
- "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
- "Two Drink Minimum"
- "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart"
- "Fell on Black Days"
- "Thank You"
- "When I'm Down"
- "Call Me a Dog"
- "Doesn't Remind Me"
- "Blow Up the Outside World"
- "Let Your Eyes Wander"
- "Billy Jean"
- "Seasons"
- "I Am the Highway"
- "Rusty Cage"
- "Sunshower"
- "Black Hole Sun"
- "Hunger Strike"
- "Wooden Jesus"
- "A Day in the Life"
- "Josephine"
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland