On stage, Cornell looked like a wannabe pirate, his moustache and beard too tidied, his hair permed.
Chris Cornell’s latest album “Scream” is as infuriating as its title for fans of Cornell’s past excursions behind the mic for such goliaths of rock as Soundgarden and Audioslave. It’s a shameless pitter-patter of techno studio effects and a voice that’s lost its tenacity, its supernatural ability to bring about a mosh pit wherever a radio may be heard — a bar, a sporting event, an office cubicle.
As merchandise for Cornell’s Timbaland-produced turd lined the entry to Harrah’s Voodoo Lounge Wednesday night, where Cornell was to perform, I was reassured by a gray goateed, pony-tailed throwback to Cornell’s glory days.
“I’m told this will be a fan’s show,” said Doug Robinson, who was wearing an olive green Soundgarden T-shirt featuring a bicycle looking like it ate asphalt beneath a tractor trailer. “Better damn well be at 40 bucks a shot.”
Indeed, for no cheaper than $37 a person, concertgoers were welcomed by an opening act called Crash Kings, best known for their cover of the Black Sabbath hit “War Pigs.” With Tony Beliveau (who bears a shaggy resemblance to Bernard in the Tim Allen flick The Santa Clause) on vocals and keyboard, Mike Beliveau on guitar and Jason Morris on drums, Crash Kings was about as hardcore as head-banging Care Bears.
Before Crash Kings was ushered off-stage, Tony Beliveau said something about how they’re from Los Angeles and, therefore, know a party town when they see one. This to the high-flying fists of those in the crowd with collared shirts, gelled hair and brand-name blue jeans.
It would be 45 minutes before Cornell took the stage, crew members continually shuffling and reshuffling instruments and working hard to install two light boards for the guitarists to stand on. During the intermission, as a teaser, Cornell’s rocked-out version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” aired over the loudspeakers.
Then Cornell appeared, only to dash behind the curtain again.
He had forgotten his leather jacket (that he would later shed after three songs).
Upon his return, Cornell was greeted with deafening applause and whistles.
The crowd by the stage was growing hungry with some preliminary bumping.
Cornell opened with “Part of Me” from his latest album, and the bumping stopped.
The only pulse from the opening song came from a recorded effect similar to the glug-glug of pumping gas.
On stage, Cornell looked like a wannabe pirate, his moustache and beard too tidied, his hair permed. His body language — even when slapping his chest — resembled that of someone who’s guzzled caffeine for a week straight and now can’t keep awake.
But, by far the most startling aspect was Cornell’s voice — or lack therof.
Even when he erupted into a tirade of yells, the ear drums were merely tickled.
In terms of length, Cornell gave the 600 or so who attended their buck’s due, clocking in at the two-hour mark.
Cornell went numerically track-by-track off “Scream,” then ventured into his hits from yesteryear, including “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman” and “Hunger Strike,” before revisiting his version of “Billie Jean,” which cast one gal wearing a T-shirt exclaiming “Vote David Cook” into a frenzied dance. But even Cornell’s tried-and-true set list felt like it was coming more from a hack tribute than its originator.
At the show’s mid-point, Cornell asked the audience if he was above the Missouri River, and how cool it would be if there were fishes swimming beneath him.
Robinson, the color bleached from his face, looked like he was ready for Cornell to sleep with the fishes.
“I came here for badassness,” he said. “What I got was shit. I’m out of here.”