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Ex-Soundgarden Chris Cornell Goes solo * .....................9/20/99 / Fillmore / San Francisco

Chrid Cornell....As much as I love the hard sound of Soundgarden, and deeply miss it, Chris Cornell has such a phenomenal voice that no matter what genre he chooses, he succeeds. Since Soundgarden's lamented breakup in 1997, grunge stud Chris Cornell has been working with his longtime friends and musical peers in the band Eleven--keyboardist Natasha Shneider and guitarist Alain Johannes, who both also co-produced the album) for a record that allowed him to hang up the rock-god mantle in favor of more sensitive and experimental pursuits. Self-admittedly striving for the diversity of the Beatles, Cornell has succeeded in making music that breathes the same kind of emotion with a healthy '90s updating. ............Chris Cornell began his first solo tour Monday, and if the opening show was any indication, he's now more concerned with melody than feedback or flannel shirts. The onetime grunge poster boy walked onto a plain stage at San Francisco Fillmore Theater in skintight black pants and a matching sleeveless T-shirt, and was greeted with a rousing ovation. He waved at the sold-out crowd and grabbed his microphone stand. After looking toward the ceiling and smiling, he spent the next hour reinventing his patented hard-rock sound. Cornell gave the San Francisco crowd a preview of his first solo album, Euphoria Morning, which comes out Sept. 21, while reprising stray solo tracks from the past and a lone Soundgarden song. "This is the first Chris Cornell show, ever," he said. Later on, Cornell would inform the audience that he'd actually played solo once before but Monday's show was "really it." He opened with "Sunshower", his first post-Soundgarden cut, which he recorded for the "Great Expectations" soundtrack (1998). Cornell's voice filled the theater. His band - guitarist Alain Johannes and keyboardist Natasha Shneider of the Los Angeles rock band Eleven, drummer Greg Upchurch and bassist Ric Markman - followed suit with a tight sound that flowed beneath Cornell's gentle croon (Cornell introduced himself as "the guy with his name on the T-shirts"). "When Chris was in Soundgarden, it was always like he was trying to be more of a rock star," concert-goer Dean Whittle, 32, of Boston, said. "Tonight, he finally looked like a singer. Now that he's on his own, it's like he doesn't have to deal with the noise of Soundgarden any more. He can just sing, and let the music take a back seat." Next, Cornell and band performed "Can't Change Me", the haunting lead single from Euphoria Morning. Above Johannes' jagged guitar line and a tribal beat from Upchurch, Cornell started in a low groan and erupted into a falsetto chorus. Along the way, the singer clenched his microphone and leaned against the stand. Looking toward the ceiling, he belted out the lyrics, "She's going to change the world/ but she can't change me." Fans hoping to hear pieces of Cornell's past didn't leave disappointed. "Seasons," a Cornell solo track from the "Singles" soundtrack (1992) was well received. "Like Suicide," the one Soundgarden song he played - the last song on Superunknown (1994) - was softer than the original and fit perfectly with Cornell's newfound tranquility. "All Night Thing," which Cornell recorded with the Seattle super side-project Temple of the Dog, gave fans a quick clip of the singer's more metal-edged vocal style. But it was the soundscape of Cornell's Euphoria Morning music that really fueled the show's momentum. In "Preaching the End of the World," a wind sound effect echoed beneath a scathing drumbeat and Johannes's guitar. "Sweet Euphoria" featured an eerie organ line. Cornell sang, "mine is the heart you stole/ Touched and broken are the things you love/ Using stars to light your candles/ Warms my face but I can't remember yours." Cornell dedicated "Moonchild," a straight-up rock number with brash guitar and the singer's familiar metal screech, to his wife, Susan Silver, the former Soundgarden manager who also handled Alice in Chains and other Seattle bands. As an encore, Cornell and band played "Steel Rain," a Euphoria Morning number marked by brooding keyboard effects, but "His voice literally floated through the theater ... and the best part was his overall simplicity."

By Randy Cohen

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