Chris Cornell introduced his two-hour concert Wednesday at Avalon Hollywood by telling the audience that he intended to play "old songs, new songs and in-between songs."
He's got a lot of each: For most of the '90s, Cornell served as the frontman of Soundgarden, one of the most successful bands to come out of Seattle's grunge scene.
When that group broke up, Cornell put out "Euphoria Morning," a solo album that traded Soundgarden's thinking-man's metal for psychedelic folk-rock.
In 2001, Cornell joined three-fourths of Rage Against the Machine (after the departure of Rage's singer, Zack de la Rocha) to form Audioslave, which made three CDs before calling it quits this year. And next month, Cornell will release "Carry On," his sophomore solo disc.
Backed by a muscular four-piece band, Cornell did as promised at Avalon. He played a lovely acoustic version of "Can't Change Me," a Beatlesque ballad from "Euphoria Morning." He did "Cochise," Audioslave's homage to Led Zeppelin's misty-mountain funk. He even sang "You Know My Name," the bombastic title-sequence track from last year's James Bond flick, "Casino Royale"; it's one of the few tunes that doesn't make Cornell sound like he's oversinging.
But Cornell's fans came to hear old songs. Perhaps inspired by Rage's reunion last weekend at Coachella, they cheered Soundgarden material as though the band's original lineup were onstage. Despite modern rock's takeover by stylish young emo bands, the vintage stuff sounded surprisingly unweathered: "Spoonman" throbbed with primal energy. "Rusty Cage" drove hard and fast. "Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden's biggest radio hit, induced mass head-nodding. (A few lighters even appeared to show cellphone users what concertgoers used to wave.)
Cornell closed the show with an extended version of Soundgarden's "Slaves & Bulldozers," complete with drum solo. As Cornell stood center stage, allowing the fuzzy guitar roar to pummel his body, he seemed perfectly content to serve up neo-grunge nostalgia.