ATLANTIC CITY - There's been a lot of talk about Chris Cornell's new, hip-hop influenced album "Scream." And not much of it is very positive.
But if the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman's fans aren't happy with Cornell's latest effort, there was very little evidence of that Friday night at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
That's because Cornell was in extraordinarily fine form, giving the audience more than its money's worth as he performed nearly 30 songs for more than two hours, hitting the sold-out Music Box crowd with a scattershot of his former bands' greatest hits as well as his solo material, including his latest.
There's no doubt that Cornell's rock-god vocals mixed with Timbaland's overproduced synths and digital beats make an unlikely pair on "Scream." And while the album is certainly not stellar, it's not anywhere nearly as bad as some reviews have made it out to be.
While Cornell doesn't sound overly convincing singing "that b*tch ain't a part of me," on "Part of Me," the night's opener and album's first track, Cornell's melodies are very strong. The issue on the album is Timbaland, not Cornell. And when his "Scream" songs are performed live without as much background nonsense and the guitars, bass and drums in the front, it's clear that Cornell could have had one hell of a rock album out right now if he enlisted producer Rick Rubin instead.
But if you think Cornell is rapping, that's not the case. He's clearly in good voice, showing the chops that rank him among one of the best rock singers to ever walk the planet.
Cornell rolled out about a half dozen of his latest tunes, and all of them were met with enthusiasm, particularly the funky, soulful "Time" and the catchy title track.
But it was clear that the crowd much preferred to hear his Soundgarden and Audioslave tunes, and they got plenty of them. In one five-song stretch toward the beginning of the set, Cornell rolled off Soundgarden's "Spoonman" and "Outshined," Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike," which he sang in the middle of the crowd, and Audioslave's "Light My Way," "Show Me How to Live" and "Be Yourself."
The crowd was rightfully ecstatic, especially since they also got to hear Soundgarden faves like "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell on Black Days" as well as Audioslave's "Cochise."
Cornell, who seemed like he was going through the motions while with Audioslave, was really animated Friday. Breaking at least two microphone stands after aggressively slamming them into the stage, Cornell high-fived the audience all night, crawled onto the drum kit, ran around the stage constantly and didn't shy away from a single high note, hitting nearly every one like he was back in his prime.
He also threw in some surprising covers, including a cool version of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" during his short acoustic set, and brief covers of "All Along the Watchtower" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" to open the often overlooked "With Arms Around Your Love." He even threw in Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" for good measure in the encore.
While Cornell nailed most of the songs, his band was not overly impressive, particularly when attempting Audioslave songs. Tom Morello was surely missed.
Cornell proved Friday he remains one of the finest rock vocalists still in the game. While some of his "Scream" material may come across like Audioslave Lite, this Cornell solo tour certainly exceeds expectations.
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