Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chris Cornell Rocked the Riv! #Chris Cornell Review

Live Review
The what: Chris Cornell
At the where: Rivera Theater, Chicago
How about a when: Sunday, April 19, 7:30pm
But did they rock?: I'll remember this for a good long time*

Chris Cornell and company took the stage at the very unrockstarish hour of 8:45pm. With the band playing teaser, he sauntered out and blasted "Part of Me," complete with video game intro, from his latest release Scream. I have a mini-review of the album below because that's just a different subject altogether; but let's just say he couldn't have picked a better freakin' song to start the show with. Live, the song turns into a rockin' anthem for anyone who's been dissed. And the crowd, screaming, singing, and cheering, felt Cornell's pain and responded with their own. If you expected the synth/keyboard-heavy atmosphere of the album, nope, sorry, not on the menu that rainy Sunday night. There wasn't a keyboard nor a drum machine in sight. What we were assaulted with were two fabulous guitarists (each with their own style - heavy metal and blues-based), a bass player who's rhythm was as beautiful as technical, and a drummer with a smallish kit, some bells and whistles, who propelled the group forward and didn't let them look back. Not that this group wanted to. They formed a cohesive wall, the safe place, around the singer and let Cornell do what he's best at. For any musician, this is their job - what they do for a living, but this crew had a blast on stage in Chicago and it showed.

Cornell and band played for over an hour and 45 minutes. The show was a great mix of new stuff (surprise - the band rocked these songs), Audioslave and a Soundgarden gem or two (missing "Black Hole Sun" because of curfew?). "Watch Out" and "Scream" were added to the aforementioned "Part of Me." While you could recognize the songs from "Scream," the band rocked them up so the live versions only slightly resembled their digital conterparts. His standard cover song - Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" - is almost unrecognizable when Cornell turned it into a smokey, blues-infused number that languished around his vocals. Cornell did a solo acoustic set that consisted of a mix of songs from the 3 stages of his career. It was just the right break needed - him and his guitar. His voice, so distinct and pitch perfect kept the crowd energized through the quiet set. And using his phone to film us, the audience, singing Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike" - Brilliant! *I don't have to remember what a great show this was - Chris was kind enough to upload his little bit to YouTube. I'm with the big guy in the center.

Cornell and the band worked hard at providing us with a great show and the payoff was blast to experience. I look forward to seeing him again.

Album Review
The what: Scream
The who: Chris Cornell, produced by Timbaland

So - the jokes on us. The album, while not a stunning masterpiece, brings together painful emotion, restrained musicianship, and hypnotic beats. I will admit, I was exposed to the negative comments before I even downloaded the album (which, came free with my purchase of tickets to the show - can I say, great idea. Thanks Chris!). A cursory listen (cycled through the first few seconds of each song) just soured in my ears. But I added the whole album to my nano and promptly forgot about it. That is, until the songs started shuffling in to my playlist. I could recognize a Scream song the minute it came on. "Well, OK," I mumbled to myself after a few listens, "not as bad as everyone says. Deserves proper sit-down," I ask? The answer came back a resounding yes, because the more I listened, the more layers I heard, the more emotions exposed, and the more I appreciated the non-traditional/experimental instrumentation of Scream. Realization of loss is the theme that resonates throughout the album. While the music is heavily produced, synthesized, unified, glorified, it doesn't overpower the lyrics - the emotional baggage is front and center throughout the whole album. A few days after the show (when my ears stopped bleeding), I just played the whole album, front to back. Here are my impressions:

"Part of Me" - such a difference, digital to live, but the raw emotion is there, laid bare, wrapped up in pretty electronic beats.
"Time" - thicker beat, more lyrical pain, guitar-laced undercurrent.
"Sweet Revenge" - again - a song you can feel Timbaland's influence on. Interesting effects on the vocals.
"Get Up" - the complete marriage of all that is experimental on this album - music, vocals, lyrics, and style.
"Ground Zero" - danceable, a track you'd expect to hear on a Friday night out to the clubs.
"Never Far Away" - more of a rocker, but you can still feel the over production on the instruments. Cornell often experiments with different styles (vocal and musical) within the same song. It provides interesting results like the last few seconds of NFA.
"Take Me Alive" - starts with a soft beat, accentuated with a middle eastern-flavored rhythm. Again, the personal lyrics help create the atmosphere, but you still expect that burst of energy that is never allowed to be unleashed.
"Long Gone" - layered vocals and more of the restrained, 2-dimensional instrumentation. Cornell's voice is the focal point here.
"Scream" - restrained, focused, an accumulation of emotion and sound. You sit there and wait for the release, the in your face, but it never comes. There's just melody and longing and regret.
"Enemy" - more of Timbaland's electronic drums and hypnotic beats.
"Other Side of Town" - a bit funkier then the rest, a fabulous beat, and great live. Another case of a rocker in person, the digital version just hinting at the songs personality.
"Climbing Up the Walls" - about as close to a straight ahead rocker as you're going to get on this album. Which is to say, about left of center.
"Watch Out" -One of the songs that had the Riv crowd pumpin'. You feel this one down in your gut and you just can't help but jump.
"Two Drink Minimum" - and with a switch of the song we've gone from the urban to the country. From the dance halls of NY to bars of Tennessee. Cornell's voice is the showcase of the smoky classic - a bonus track for those who downloaded the album from Cornell's site.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things I Really Hate

I really hate when you get an email from a "free" social network site that says "someone left you a note, find out who!" When you get to the site, they give you 23 characters from the note - but never EVER who sent it to you. Cuz you have to upgrade to the "gold package" to find out who the hell decided to say "remember me from 8th grade?"

As much as I don't like things about Facebook or Myspace - I can't help but hope those sites bury

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Twitstale, a short short story in 140 bites

Here's a twitstory that was but together, quite by accident, through Twitter. Well, on second thought, not really by accident, but without any pre-planning on the participants part. Thanks to @mrflippy, @chux0r, @akraut, @pjiutzi, and @dfjkl for inspiring the whole thing...

@mrflippy: nom, nom, nom
@2zen2: @mrflippy i see your nom nom nom and raise you an additional nom of cumin curry veggies and tofu.
@2zen2 I have an extra ginger honey biscuit here if you want
@mrflippy @2zen2 basil port egg rice here NOM NOM NOM
@2zen2 I seem to be missing the first part of all your convos before mr. Flippy as all seem interesting but are missing vital info.

*editor's note - here's where we go off roading for a bit...*

@dfjkl And then she said, "But where are we going to find a cattle prod at this hour?"
because @akraut would never forgive us if we let it wonder off into the lake...
and I said if it gets too rough in there, just take the chill water feed off the AC unit and hose everyone down
well a good hose down like that would definitely mark an end to the festivities.
And all he said was, "Remember the purple one."