Chris Cornell’s Legacy Cemented as Music Superstars Show Us How to ‘Love’
A few years back, Chris Cornell ventured out on the 'Storybook' tour, seemingly getting in touch with the music he'd written over the years in a more intimate setting and enjoying sharing his works with others. On Wednesday in Los Angeles, the music and entertainment world had their chance to create a Cornell storybook of their own, saluting the late singer and doing their best to honor the music he left behind.
It was an all-star day that grew even larger than what had been reported earlier, and while there were a few production hiccups along the way, most of the night's performers brought their A-game. Here's a recap of some of the night's top moments.
First call — The Melvins: Matt Cameron took the stage and revealed that as the show was coming together, one of his first calls — and the only way to start the show right — was with The Melvins. The band's fuzzed out, rocked up set found King Buzzo stomping around the stage, while Dale Crover's drumming mastery came to the forefront with their cover of "Spoonman." Their set also gave us "The Kicking Machine," killer covers of Malfunkshun's "With Yo' Heart (Not Yo' Hands)" and Green River's "Leech" as well as their own "Let It All Be" and "Honey Bucket."
A Grohl U Want: The Foo Fighters delivered a varied set, opening with Soundgarden's "No Attention," shifting to a different arrangement of Devo's "Girl U Want" and offering a little of Cheech & Chong's "Earache My Eye." Dave Grohl remained onstage alone, telling the crowd that he was saddened today, thinking that Cornell is the one person who would've appreciated this evening the most before dedicating an acoustic rendition of "Everlong," which brought an audible fan sing-along. Grohl would return later in the evening along with Metallica's Robert Trujillo to perform with Audioslave on "Show Me How to Live," which was one of the many highlights of their set.
Once "Rusty," But Not Twice Shy: The audience was treated to two very different versions of "Rusty Cage" during the evening. John Carter Cash, who had worked with Cornell on the Forever Words Johnny Cash project, got a little emotional speaking about his friendship with Cornell and the impact "Rusty Cage" had on his dad, who had recorded a cover of the song. He then brought out Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme who followed in Cash's footsteps, giving it a more country vibe complete with some stellar Homme guitar moments. The song would be the only repeat of the night, with Soundgarden calling upon The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen to provide the attitude with which it was first delivered.
Audioslave Set It Off With Special Guests: Of the three Cornell bands, Audioslave might have done the best "casting" for the night. Perry Farrell's upper register was a solid choice to match Cornell's vocal power on "Cochise," and with Tim Commerford absent from the proceedings, Audioslave snagged some of the bass talent going. The legendary Geezer Butler joined in with Farrell on "Cochise," then stuck around for an energetic performance from Juliette Lewis on "Be Yourself." Their five-song set was one of the night's best, as Jane's Addiction's Chris Chaney sat in with the superb pairing of Rise Against's Tim McIlrath and X Ambassadors' Sam Harris on the electric "Set It Off," then Chaney stuck around to play with Brandi Carlile on "Like a Stone," which provided one of the night's best audience sing-alongs. Grohl and Trujillo also earn high marks for their set closing performance of "Show Me How to Live."
Metallica Rescue Jack Black: It's not the easiest job to be the guy sent out to "fill" while they get the stage ready. Jack Black made the most of it, speaking about Chris Cornell singing notes that hadn't been invented and it opening up the world into a different portal. When the commentary concluded, he learned he still had time to kill and unleashed his unique vocal mimicry of "Spoonman." Still waiting for a sign, James Hetfield saved the day, riffing a bit of "One" while Black sang along and metalheads cheered. Metallica debuted their cover of Soundgarden's "All Your Lies" and bookended their set with "Head Injury" after a false start. In between, lots of metal horns flew skyward thanks to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Master of Puppets."
The "Morning" Period Followed by the "Dog" Days: The arrival of Stone Gossard late signaled the probability of Temple of the Dog's turn in the program, but the guitarist first chose to join with Josh Freese, Nikka Costa and Alain Johannes in celebrating some of Cornell's Euphoria Morning work. Beautifully soulful versions of "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" and "Can't Change Me," gave way to Alice in Chains' William DuVall and Jerry Cantrell starting the transition taking on "Hunted Down" and Fiona Apple giving a spirited performance of "All Night Thing." Pop star Miguel earned raves for his soulful version of "Reach Down," backed oh so well by Nikka Costa, who had returned to the stage. Miley Cyrus delivered the best of her two performances on "Say Hello 2 Heaven," and the band welcomed Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile for the country-tinged arrangement of "Hunger Strike" you never knew you needed. It was so polished that it felt like it should hit radio if the tape gods were rolling.
Two Taylors Help Soundgarden Leave Their Mark: Ending the night on a high note, the trio of Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd sounded as powerful as ever, with two Taylors — Momsen and Hawkins — joining MC50's Marcus Grant in bringing the vocal talent for this performance. Momsen almost mirrored Cornell's rocker presence, spicing up "Rusty Cage" and bringing her rawness to "Drawing Flies." Meanwhile, Taylor Hawkins was ever the showman, talking up the talents of Soundgarden while singing "The Day I Tried to Live" and I Awake with Buzz Osborne bringing extra guitar to the tracks. Grant, who had played with Thayil and Cameron on the MC50 tour, missed the mark a bit with "Flower" but more than made up for it with "Outshined." Soundgarden also welcomed Tom Morello and Wayne Kramer to join Momsen on "Loud Love," and Peter Frampton and Brandi Carlile to play "Black Hole Sun." Frampton had previously been Grammy nominated for his instrumental performance of "Black Hole Sun" and had some great guitar interplay with Thayil on the song. Meanwhile, as the song finished, everyone left but Thayil and Shepherd who seemed not to want to end the night. They both played with their pedals, rocked against the speakers and messed with the distortion and feedback for about five more minutes as the stage lights flashed before finally exiting.
The Solitary Show Stealers: Chris Cornell's higher range and falsetto was ridiculous on "Seasons," but organizers managed to find the perfect fit to reach it. Adam Levine joined his Maroon 5 bandmate Jesse Carmichael and Stone Gossard for a spot on acoustic cover. Ryan Adams, with an assist from Don Was and a stirring string section, brought a new arrangement and vitality to "Fell on Black Days," while also dedicating "Dead Wishes" to his late brother who introduced him to Soundgarden's music. Country superstar Chris Stapleton hit the right tone with the vulnerable and soulful song "The Keeper," and later returned for a stunning duet with Brandi Carlile on Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike."
A Family Affair: Chris Cornell's family was a presence throughout the evening. Brad Pitt came out to introduce Cornell's daughter Toni, who performed a moving rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" with another famous offspring, Ziggy Marley. Later, Cornell's other daughter Lily was part of the introductory process for Temple of the Dog while also speaking about the values instilled from her father. Cornell's widow, Vicky, was introduced by Josh Brolin, who had revealed that she had raised $1 million through her efforts for EBMF and the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. After a huge round of applause, Vicky addressed the crowd, stating, "There are no words to express my gratitude for your love and support of Chris for all these years and especially over these last 18 months ... We all know how music can change us, but Chris did something more extraordinary. He changed music and paved the way for so many from Seattle to across the globe and that legacy and his influence will live for generations to come." She signed off her speech with the signature "Loud Love." Later in the evening, Chris Cornell Jr. got the honor of introducing "my dad's first band," Soundgarden.
Throughout the night, the performances were interspersed with clips of Cornell, both of the performance variety and of the singer speaking of his humanitarian efforts, while a bevy of celebs joined in Cornell's "The Promise" campaign. On the whole, the evening gave fans not only great performances they'll remember for the rest of their lives, but a renewed appreciation for the man, his music and his philanthropic legacy.
I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell Set List
1. The Melvins - "The Kicking Machine"
2. The Melvins - "With Yo' Heart (Not Yo' Hands)" (Malfunkshun cover)
3. The Melvins - "Leech" (Green River Cover)
4. The Melvins - "Let It All Be"
5. The Melvins - "Honey Bucket"
6. The Melvins - "Spoonman" (Soundgarden cover)
7. Rita Wilson - "The Promise" (Chris Cornell cover)
8. Alain Johannes With Nikka Costa - "Disappearing One" (Chris Cornell cover)
9. Chris Stapleton - "The Keeper" (Chris Cornell cover)
10. Foo Fighters - "No Attention" (Soundgarden cover)
11. Foo Fighters - "Girl U Want" (Devo cover)
12. Foo Fighters - Earache My Eye" (Cheech & Chong cover)
13. Dave Grohl - "Everlong"
14. Josh Homme - "Rusty Cage" (Soundgarden cover)
15. Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael and Stone Gossard - "Seasons" (Chris Cornell cover)
16. Miley Cyrus - "As Hope and Promise Fades" (Chris Cornell cover)
17. Audioslave with Perry Farrell and Geezer Butler - "Cochise"
18. Audioslave with Juliette Lewis and Geezer Butler - "Be Yourself"
19. Audioslave with Rise Against's Tim McIlrath, X Ambassadors' Sam Harris and Jane's Addiction's Chris Chaney - "Set It Off"
20. Audioslave with Brandi Carlile and Chris Chaney - "Like a Stone"
21. Audioslave with Dave Grohl and Robert Trujillo - "Show Me How to Live"
22. Toni Cornell with Ziggy Marley - "Redemption Song" (Bob Marley cover)
23. Metallica - "All Your Lies" (Soundgarden cover)
24. Metallica - "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
25. Metallica - "Master of Puppets"
26. Metallica - "Head Injury" (Soundgarden cover)
27. Ryan Adams - "Dead Wishes" (Chris Cornell cover)
28. Ryan Adams - "Fell on Black Days"
29. Stone Gossard, Nikka Costa, Alain Johannes & Josh Freese - "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (Chris Cornell cover)
30. Stone Gossard, Nikka Costa, Alain Johannes & Josh Freese - "Can't Change Me"
31. Temple of the Dog with Alice in Chains' William DuVall & Jerry Cantrell, "Hunted Down" (Soundgarden cover)
32. Temple of the Dog and Fiona Apple, "All Night Thing" (Chris Cornell cover)
33. Temple of the Dog with Miguel, "Reach Down"
34. Temple of the Dog with Miley Cyrus, "Say Hello 2 Heaven"
35. Temple of the Dog with Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile "Hunger Strike"
36. Soundgarden with The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen, "Rusty Cage"
37. Soundgarden with MC50's Marcus Grant, "Flower"
38. Soundgarden with MC50's Marcus Grant, "Outshined'
39. Soundgarden with The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen, "Drawing Flies"
40. Soundgarden with The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen, Tom Morello and Wayne Kramer, "Loud Love"
41. Soundgarden with Taylor Hawkins and Buzz Osborne, "I Awake"
42. Soundgarden with Taylor Hawkins and Buzz Osborne, "The Day I Tried to Live"
43. Soundgarden with Brandi Carlile + Peter Frampton, "Black Hole Sun"