Chris Cornell stepped out as a solo artist following the demise of seminal Seattle rock band Soundgarden. His first solo gig, in 1999, was a low-key affair at Sanders Theatre. Back then the singer-songwriter asked for the audience's patience since he would be playing almost exclusively new stuff from an album, "Euphoria Morning," that had yet to be released.
Patience was not a necessary virtue Thursday night at a vacuum-packed Avalon.
Cornell, who put his fledgling solo career on hold in 2001 to front supergroup Audioslave until quitting two months ago, opened hard, loud, and strong with two of his best-known and loved Soundgarden songs: the tribal groover "Spoonman" and the muscular metal of "Outshined."
That pair was followed by the keening "Hunger Strike" from another grunge touchstone, the one-off 1990 Temple of the Dog project that found members of Soundgarden teaming up with future members of Pearl Jam.
While the equally familiar set list that followed may have delivered "Hey dude, remember the ' 90 s" nostalgia for many in the crowd, Cornell himself didn't appear to be dwelling in that twilight so much as joyfully acknowledging it.
When it came to his forthcoming CD, "Carry On," however, Cornell's song choices didn't keep up the evening's mood.
With the exception of the so-so Bond anthem "You Know My Name," they all have elements to recommend them, such as the sweet croon on the plea-for-peace ballad "Safe and Sound," which he dedicated to the families of the Virginia Tech shootings. But alongside loudly loved favorites "Black Hole Sun," "Burden in My Hand," "Like a Stone," and "Cochise," a couple of the album's harder, funkier tracks could have been more memorable. The songs weren't just fighting with collective memory, but with the authoritative brawn Cornell and his backing quartet brought to the rumbling riffs and rhythms, especially on a cage-rattling encore of "Slaves and Bulldozers."
New song or old, with the band or solo acoustic, however, Cornell's justifiably lauded voice was center stage. He may have lost a bit of stamina, but the seductively husky lows of "Doesn't Remind Me" or the skyscraping highs of the waltz-time charmer "Can't Change Me" were a constant reminder that his vocal cords remain some of the best in rock 'n' roll.