R.I.P. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

20.07.1964 – 18.05.2017

Writing this memorial piece is a hard thing to do.  I was a massive fan of Chris Cornell and had been for many, many years.  I was left stunned, then in disbelief, and finally great sorrow when I stumbled on news of his death early that morning.

I had discovered Soundgarden with their “Louder Than Love” album back around 1990.  Music back then was shifting; I’d been listening to what would become “alternative rock” for some time and Soundgarden fitted right in with my tastes.  Along with other bands of the time like Jane’s Addiction and Mudhoney, I liked these bands that were able to meld classic heavy rock with a punk approach.  Bands like Soundgarden threw influences across the musical landscape into one pot.

When “Badmotorfinger” was released, I became a full on Soundgarden devotee.  The band soundtracked the ups and downs of my student life, the good times and bad.  The excellent “Superunknown” album cemented this noise in my affections even further.

Their sound evolved as Soundgarden explored and developed.  The riffs could still be inhumanly heavy, but there other sounds filtering through – from the whimsical to the psychedelic.  Listening to those albums was an experience that took the listener on a journey through different sounds and textures, feelings and emotions.

And of course, there was that amazing voice.  Chris Cornell could croon soothingly or wail like a tormented banshee – an awe inspiring ability that added yet more colour to the band’s sound.

Following Soundgarden’s split, I followed Chris’s musical journey through his solo endeavours and work with Audioslave.  I also loved his Bond theme – “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale.  I’ve played that many times to psyche myself up before a challenging situation, I can tell you.

I’ve tried to edit these recollections down, but revisiting some of the touch points in my life – where the music of Chris Cornell (and band mates) has been integral – goes some way to understanding the respect I have for the man and his legacy.

Sadly, now he’s gone.  I never saw Chris Cornell live (I went to Reading festival in 1994 but Soundgarden pulled out at the last minute) and I’d been looking forward to more music in the future.

It’s heart breaking to know that Chris is gone, and there’s no more music.  We’ve reached the end of that journey.  But what a legacy he’s left.  I’ll revisit those records again and again.  Though full of reminiscences of my past, those songs and performances are immortal.

I won’t speculate on the nature of Chris’s death, it’s not my place.  There are dark places that the human soul can go to.  It’s just incredibly sad.

Thanks for the music, Chris Cornell.  An exceptional musician who has left an indelible mark on millions of us.

“Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you anymore”

Download Festival

DL2015

Sunday 14th June 2015

Over the years I’ve been to Reading, Leeds and Rewind Festivals – even Chester Rocks.  Though I’ve never been to a full on outdoors Hard Rock/Metal festival, much to my regret.  Thus when the opportunity arose to get my rockin’ self to Download, the epicentre of all heavy rock fests, I seized the chance with gloved fist.  And then did the devil horn salute.

Due to time and financial constraints, it would only be a one day escapade with my buddies Ben the Swede and Coben.  Sadly this would mean missing such favourites as Faith No More, Clutch, Judas Priest, COC and many more.  But never mind – the gods of rock threw down their gauntlet and we would charge into the melee.

After a right old slog from the car to the main gates, we eventually entered the stadium like gladiators – ready for the first spectacle of the day.  The first band we saw were Tremonti, who I’d never heard of before.  Halfway through their set, the band were actually heavier than I thought and I enjoyed what I heard.  Worth further investigation.

At this point the heavens opened and the rain poured.  No matter – we were already making our way to the third stage to catch a “secret” set from The Darkness.  It was packed – everyone had the same idea, or at least decided this was better than drowning.  The set began with a monstrous riff that went on forever and did a good job of pumping the crowd up.  This intro enabled singer Justin Hawkins to make his way from the back to the stage, in true over the top style.  The Darkness then delivered a raucous set that roared at the sky – opener “Barbarian” accompanied by a load of Vikings on stage was great.  The hit singles “Growing on Me” and closer “I Believe in a Ting Called Love” were real crowd pleasers.  “Black Shuck” was my personal favourite, in a set that became the first true event of the day.  Not a secret, but surprisingly good. 2015-06-14 16.51.05

The next event was witnessing one of my all time heroes, the one and only Mr Billy Idol, live in concert for the first time.  I’ve been a fan of Billy for years.  In all honesty, many of his songs are too pop for this audience; so hits like “Hot in the City” and “Catch My Fall” (both personal faves) are sadly omitted.  However, with old pal Steve Stevens providing the guitar onslaught there’s plenty of rock to be had.  “Dancing with Myself”, “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” all provide quality entertainment and I have to admit that I was thrilled to see this old warrior in action.  A great warm up for the rest of the evening.

Now with four stages and dozens of acts spread across the Download field, the only down side is making tough choices on who to watch if bands clash.  Especially as “a quick trip across the field” becomes a gruelling endurance test when it’s uphill in a muddy hell.  The first major casualty of the day was Eagles of Death Metal, whom I love dearly and have never seen live.

2015-06-14 17.19.04But I made a choice to see L7 instead of Slash, and boy am I glad I did.  Recently reformed, the four grungettes of L7 played a fantastic set.  The sound was great on the second stage, perhaps because I was closer?  Either way, “Andres”, “Fuel My Fire” and “Shitlist” were truly great.  Though “Everglade” was absolutely bonkers.  The riff that kills!  L7 are heavy!  I smiled a lot.  “Pretend We’re Dead” wasn’t bad either.  Fuck it, band of the day!

I caught the last four and a half songs by Slash.  He was pretty cool, but no L7.  “Anastasia” is a great song, and I have to say that Myles Kennedy has an awesome voice.  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” were both better with Kennedy and without Axl’s screeching.  Can I count this as having seen Guns’n’Roses live, as there’s only Axl left in that band?  Why the hell not!

Next up on the main stage was Motley Crue.  I wasn’t a fan of the Crue back in their heyday, other than one or two songs.  I’ve grown to appreciate them over the last fifteen years or so, much like I’ve grown to love Priest and Maiden.  Now on their final tour, the show promised to be big.  Motley Crue didn’t disappoint, delivering a punch in the face set that was one of the best of the day.  They played their cards right, delivering all the hits: “Wildside”, “Primal Scream”, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Shout at the Devil” were superb.  The only less than impressive moment was an unnecessary, but well intentioned, cover of “Anarchy in the UK”. 2015-06-14 20.21.35

There was spectacle in abundance – sexy backing singers in tiny shorts; flames that were hot enough to give me a Hollywood sun tan from a hundred feet away; dear old Vince Neil looking less than svelte.  “Girls Girls Girls” and “Kick Start My Heart” both built the set to a red hot climax.  “Home Sweet Home” was a fitting encore, ending a triumphant appearance.

And so last up we have head-liners Kiss. A band I’ve loved ever since I fist saw adverts for their t-shirts in old 1970’s Marvel comics – though I had no idea if they were rock stars, superheroes, or what.  I’d never seen Kiss before so this was something to look forward to.  Full make up, all the pyro – I was hungry for the experience.

Kiss explode into “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce” – songs that lesser bands would have saved for the encore.  The show is a visual feast; lights, huge screens, explosions all attack the senses and create Las Vegas in the English Midlands.  I get to hear my two absolute total favourite Kiss songs ever – “I Love It Loud” and “Calling Dr. Love”.  That was me happy right there. 2015-06-14 21.14.07

The Kiss set did wander a little bit though.  Obviously gearing their songs to a heavier crowd, we get three songs in a row from “Creatures of the Night” – their heaviest album.  The songs “Creatures of the Night” and “War Machine” are great, but not top of the Kiss list.  Plus there’s newer numbers “Psycho Circus” and “Hell or Hallelujah” which are just OK.

A little too much solo spot indulgence was my cue to take a comfort break.  On the way back, I dived in to catch Suicidal Tendencies on the smallest stage.  I only saw five songs, but ST were incredible.  “I Shot the Devil” and “War Inside My Head” tore the place apart.  I couldn’t make out all of Mike Muir’s between song banter, but he was fired up and intense as hell.  Hearing “Possessed to Skate” was an unforgettable moment.  Muir dedicated to everyone who skates – thanks Mike – and it took me back to loving ST back in my early skate days.  Absolutely mental punk thrash, I need to see Suicidal Tendencies again.

Returning to the main stage area, I caught the last few Kiss songs and was very impressed with what I’d seen.  Minor gripes aside, it was a privilege to see the band and experience a Kiss show first hand.

So there you have it.  Download 2015 was hampered by bad weather, and a poor layout that abandoned stupid amusement rides in the middle where the bar (and another toilet) should have been.  Yet despite being forced mercilessly to choose between too many bands, I got to see some great rock’n’roll and enjoyed a cool, fun atmosphere.  Oh yeah, and the festival staff were pleasant and friendly.  On the whole a good job.