2003 / Live Reviews / Music

Concert Review: Audioslave Gives Faithful Fans What They Want

Band Includes Former Soundgarden, Rage Members

MINNEAPOLIS — With a sold-out Minneapolis audience on its feet, cheering and screaming, it seemed fitting that rock’s newest supergroup, Audioslave, would choose the song “Light My Way” to open their show Sunday night at First Avenue.

Photo: Epic Records/Interscope Records

Photo: Epic Records/Interscope Records

The song, built around a stomping guitar riff, is a prayer about seekng a sense of direction. In this instance, the song could refer to the new purpose the guys in Audioslave have received from their fans.

Before forming the band in late 2000, the foursome were just ex-members of Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden, two of the alt-rock’s biggest bands of the ’90s. With the end of their bands, they all faced this new decade with uncertain futures.

But it was fans’ fierce loyalty and enthusiasm for the project that has helped keep Audioslave afloat and on course through adversity. When managerial squabbling prompted singer Chris Cornell to temporarily abandon the group last summer, fans unintentionally built anticipation and kept the band’s name in the news by trading mp3s of their album’s demos six months before it was officially released. When Audioslave announced its current tour — its first U.S. jaunt — fans quickly snapped up tickets, resulting in a string of sold-out dates (Minneapolis was the group’s second stop). And while Audioslave’s self-titled debut album isn’t the epic disc such collaborations promise, this crowd didn’t seem to care. They just wanted to rock.

Cornell’s former band had earned the nickname “Frowngarden” for their sullen-faced stage presence, but the singer looked genuinely bemused — maybe even a bit giddy — from the crowd’s cheers. Whatever the group threw at them, the audience loved it and responded — scat singing along the conclusion of “Exploder” along with Cornell or bouncing en masse to the roaring guitar runs on “Show Me How To Live” and “Set It Off.”

In contrast to the surging ocean of bodies in front of them, the group in performance was absorbed in concentration. The instrumentalists, particularly guitarist Tom Morello, seemed to conserve their motions to playing with a minimum of showboating. They seemed a bit tentative and kept close to the songs’ album versions. The only moments of release came when Morello would strum the songs’ colossal guitar riffs during the chorus, and he’d spring in the air as he struck the strings, only to have his knees buckle when the notes erupted from his amplifier. He repeated this Pete Townshed-esque shimmy over and over.

Meanwhile, Cornell calmly paced the stage. Instead of inciting the crowd with theatrics (although he did bend a mic stand by banging it on the stage), he mostly focused on singing. Cornell’s vocal range, always impressive on record, was intact for most of the show. Through the 13-song set, he lept from a smokey croon to a heavy metal god’s shriek. By the midway point, his voice showed signs of hoarseness — his ringing scream sounded like a screech on “What You Are” and “Exploder” — but a pair of slower numbers gave him time to recover.

The set list’s only surprise was a cover of Funkadelic’s “Super Stupid,” but the song’s riff-based rhythm was a clear touchstone for Rage’s oeuvre. The tune also gave Morello his only chance to really stretch out and play a longer solo. With his fingers darting the length of the guitar’s neck and his feet stomping on a rack of effects pedals, Morello’s playing sounded more like a collage of high-pitched squeals than an array of flashy scales.

The band was strongest on its hard rock material and was defanged — uninspired even — on mellower, vocal-oriented material like “The Last Remaining Light” and “I Am The Highway.” For “Highway,” Cornell picked up an acoustic guitar and played the first half of the song alone. This magnified the fact that the song’s lyrics are just plain dumb.

Also disappointing were openers the Burning Brides, a sludge-rock trio from Philadelphia. The band bulldozed through their 30-minute set, burying any kind of melody or delicacy beneath their incessant shouting and pummeling of their instruments.

To reward their fans’ loyalty, the quartet closed the night with the thunderous “Cochise.” The crowd began to form a mosh pit and those not knocking into each other responded with headbanging and fists pumping. It was the best gift that Audioslave could give to their fans — giving them exactly what they want.

Before departing, Cornell reassured the audience that the message was heard loud and clear by the band.

“This is what we do and we’re going to be doing it for a long time to come,” Cornell promised.

Remainder Of Audioslave’s Debut Tour:

  • Feb. 24, St. Louis
  • Feb 26-27, Chicago
  • Feb. 28, Detroit
  • March 1, Toronto
  • March 3-4, Boston
  • March 6, New York
  • March 7, Philadelphia
  • March 9, Atlanta
  • March 11, Austin, Texas
  • March 12, Dallas
  • March 14, Phoenix
  • March 15, Las Vegas
  • March 17, Los Angeles
  • March 19-20, San Francisco
  • March 22, Seattle

For More Info:

Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2003 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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