Last Night: Chris Cornell at House of Blues

Chris Cornell
House of Blues
April 3, 2011

Better than:
open mic night at any given local bar, although not by much.

cornelllookingdown.jpg
Chris Cornell

Let's get something out of the way right up front: I'm a pretty huge Chris Cornell fan. I've seen him live a few times before, and he's always exceeded my expectations. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to be going to see his first ever solo acoustic tour.

But all optimism vanished only a few steps into the downstairs portion of the main room at the House of Blues, where this show was being held and where we learned that we were about as close to the stage as we were going to be able to get.

The floor area normally utilized for their general admission customers was roped off and filled with chairs. And, OK, that much makes perfect sense. Who wouldn't prefer to sit down while watching an intimate two-hour acoustic performance?

The House of Blues, however, just isn't laid out to where this kind of thing can be properly executed. Not only was the bottom section roped off, general admission ticket holders were kept back an additional 15 to 20 feet from the ropes, pushed back underneath the balcony area where the big house sound was barely more than a muffled mess and where most views were obstructed by huge pillars. It was like being at a bar or coffee shop where most people seemed to come for drinks and conversation rather than to listen to whoever was playing softly way over in the corner.

Fans bitching about poor views were literally louder than what was taking place on stage.

At one point, I heard a middle-aged woman jokingly trying to convince two others that, between them, they could overtake the bouncer and gain entry to the coveted roped-off area.

After Cornell was drowned completely out by a drunken guy standing next to us singing mostly wrong lyrics to "Can't Change Me" from Cornell's first solo record both louder and faster than the guy onstage, we decided to try and sneak upstairs. Without a ticket to one of the balcony seats, the view crouching near the stairs wasn't appreciably better. But the sound quality was enough improved that we managed to last a few more songs.

The hidden track from Cornell's Scream album, "Two Drink Minimum," seemed like an odd choice at first, but it went over surprisingly well. Temple of the Dog's "Call Me a Dog," followed by Soundgarden's "Fell On Black Days" and "Burden In My Hand" was easily the high point of what we saw.

"Burden In My Hand," in particular, was actually kind of incredible, as Cornell not only pulled off all the instrumental parts on his single acoustic guitar, but did so quite capably. That is to say it was impressive enough to buy him a few more songs under such miserable conditions.

We were treated to some Mother Love Bone, and then a version of "Mind Riot," which Cornell performed on electric guitar. But by far the most interesting moment of the set -- or, that is to say, what we saw of it before we left, fed up with the conditions -- came when Cornell sang to a turntable. He told a story about not being able to find anyone who could play piano like his former bandmate Natasha Shneider, who passed away a few years ago, so he isolated her piano track from the studio recording of "When I'm Down" from Euphoria Morning and had it pressed to vinyl. Sure enough, he walked over to a turntable at the side of his setup, took a record out of its sleeve, cued it up, dropped the needle and proceeded to wail vocally over the warm and haunting vinyl tones.

Not too long after, we'd had about all we could take of the practically nonexistent sightlines and tremendously underwhelming audio quality and decided to head for the exit.

In all honesty, I was glad I hadn't paid for my ticket. Otherwise, we would have left sooner and fought like hell to get a refund.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: On both Friday and Saturday night in the lead-up to the show, I had dreams that involved meeting Cornell and going to his shows. In one of them, I insisted on paying him double for his merch (a shirt and an EP that doesn't actually exist in real life) before one of the shows. His response to me was "Thanks, now I'll perform twice as good tonight!" Whoops?

Random Local Celeb Sighting(s):
It was somewhat comforting to see Toadies frontman Vaden Todd Lewis and his wife frantically wandering around the general admission area with the rest of us "regular" folk, trying to find that elusive good spot. When we left, we spotted his Burden Brothers bandmate Taz Bentley checking out, too, which made us feel slightly justified in our decision.

Random Note: The best story Cornell told between songs was about a past concert, where he told everyone in the audience to stand up. He noticed one guy who remained sitting and had the audience heckle the guy for being the lone attendee to remain seated. The kicker came when Cornell discovered the guy was actually in a wheelchair.

Location Info

Venue

Map

House of Blues

2200 N. Lamar St., Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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7 comments
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RyanBlueThunder
RyanBlueThunder

Houston had very similar circumstances when he played Saturday night at the House of Blues. Don't get me wrong, the show was absolutely incredible. But I'm in many ways intrigued how the same issues: (1) poor standing room only for the 'general admission' folks crammed against the back and side bars, (2) drunken frat boys talking over the show and singing at the top of their lungs (complete with incorrect lyrics to Can't Change Me). At one point the HOB staff came right in the middle of a song (waiving flash light in hand) and pushed everyone standing back so they could add more seats. Fortunately, I'm tall enough that my view was never too bad. And the sound was not an issue (besides the asses I had to tell to STFU).

House of Blues generally does concerts right. I have never seen a show with that seating situation at HOB. This begs the question: who had reserved seating, Foundation Room people only? I was in the Cornell fan club pre-sale and quite surprised by the treatment.

Whitewolfe12
Whitewolfe12

I'm ashamed a the house of blue respected Loyal CC fans were treated like trash. Where the bouced from the hells angels clan. I don't believe any other venues has giving such poor reveiews about its seating/GA process. HOB get it right next time CC probly won't come to ur plc and play anymore. He is a class act and his true followers are loving respectable ppl. Don't do it again ..bad HOB..CC is the best, give the best to ur patrions..Darci

an anonymous guy
an anonymous guy

OK, so you didn't like the acoustics and/or the venue. But a "pretty huge Chris Cornell fan" would let captivation take over and wouldn't leave before it's over. I'm just assuming that you left early, since you said you would've left earlier if you actually paid for you ticket. Your article shouldn't be advertised as pro-Cornell; it should be advertised as anti-House of Blues.

Darci
Darci

Yea Id never leave unless I was sick..hears it was pretty hot and a couple of folks had to leave due to almost fainting..I'm sure they cried because HOB made poor seating /GA decisions.. God CC is the best

Cory
Cory

The last two times I saw Cornell were at the HOB and sounded just fine. This is because they let people into the floor area which was designed for concerts as opposed to forcing everybody to watch from a bar area that the house system didn't even reach --at least not for an acoustic show anyway. The saddest part was that most of the people forced to be in the less than optimal location were not aware that's where they'd have to stand when they shelled out $30 for the tickets.

A "pretty huge Chris Cornell fan" would easily be captivated by what he does onstage--he is of course on of the most talented singers going--provided this person could actually see or hear anything he was actually doing. I'm not picky, I would have settled for one or the other.

Lindau483
Lindau483

Ha! He got that move from Joe Biden!

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

"He noticed one guy who remained sitting and had the audience heckle the guy for being the lone attendee to remain seated. The kicker came when Cornell discovered the guy was actually in a wheelchair."

Wow. Houston got off easy. Dig the review.

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