Audioslave crunches and grinds metal

Has Chris Cornell found a new home in Audioslave?

It sure looked and sounded like it Saturday night at the Paramount. The former lead singer of Seattle grunge-metal kingpin Soundgarden seemed in perfect mesh with new bandmates Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, formerly of Rage Against the Machine. The tight, flashy, 90-minute show was even more intense and powerful than the band's debut "Audioslave" CD.

Cornell, looking fit and very tan (he now lives most of the year in Ojai, Calif., although he maintains a home here), not only was in top form with Audioslave, and seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly, he also insisted that the new supergroup is here to stay.

"We're gonna keep making records for a long time," he told the excited capacity crowd. "You're stuck with us."

It was the last night of the band's inaugural tour, in which all 20 shows sold out. Audioslave has enjoyed one of the most successful new-band launches of recent years, with its album going platinum. No wonder Cornell and company want to keep it going.

The show was made up of almost all the songs from the new album, plus a few timely covers. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, Cornell performed a solo version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," popularized by Elvis Costello in 1979. During the encore, Cornell played guitar again and soloed on Rush's blue-collar anthem, "Working Man," with the band joining in at the end.

Those songs, and a couple of hand-lettered protest signs on the stage ("How Many Iraqis Per Gallon?" one of them read), were the only political elements in the show. Some fans have especially mourned the loss of Rage Against the Machine at this time, because it was just about the only major politically oriented rock band in the country. But the protest signs indicated that the band members haven't lost their political perspective.

The show started with the powerful blast of "Set It Off," followed by the equally intense "Light My Way." The crunch and grind of metal continued with the incendiary "Gasoline."

Cornell's passionate growls and wails were contrasted by the intricate, highly original and sometimes amazing guitar textures created by Morello, using a variety of effects pedals. He didn't play conventional guitar solos, but rather swirling, sometimes chunky, soundscapes that had you watching his fingers and feet, wondering "How did he do that?"

While most of the songs were in a metal mode, a highlight was the ballad "Like a Stone," an album standout and current hit single. It showed that Cornell has his delivery down like a pro, and is capable of handling any kind of song.

Audioslave will be back Aug. 23 to play the new White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, as part of the Lollapalooza Tour.

Burning Brides opened with a strong attack, featuring hard-rock cuts from its new disc, "Fall of the Plastic Empire." Singer-guitarist Dimitri Coats and bassist Melanie Campbell were impressive.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or pmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Concert review


Audioslave, with Burning Brides, Saturday night, Paramount Theatre, Seattle.