GENEVA – Nothing screams grunge as Seattle in the U.S., and nothing could be further away from it than the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Yet, the two have met many a times in the shores of Lake Geneva and produced some gut wrenching performances, including some by Chris Cornell, 52, whose death on 17 May sent shock waves among fans worldwide.
According to the information I have been able to track, Cornell toured Switzerland in five occasions: twice with Soundgarden, once with Audioslave, and twice as solo act.
Cornell’s first appearance in Montreaux occurred in 2005, as frontman for Audioslave (an American rock supergroup composed of Cornell and former Rage Against the Machine members).
There was much anticipation to the concert, Cornell’s vocals however, were heavily criticized, especially during the Shadow on the Sun performance (hear for yourself here). Redemption arrived in the form of I Am the Highway song, where fans got to hear him at its best during that concert (full set list of that concert posted online by fans here).
While 2005 was the one and only MJF show for Audioslave, it was not for Cornell who returned seven years later, with his solo album Songbook.
The 30 June 2012 concert was a different performance all together. No grunge but an intimate unplugged display of his vocal abilities. Take for example Call Me A Dog (see the digitized, beautifully shot video at MJF here), and his Michael Jackson cover, Billie Jean. The MJF concert was Cornell’s last in the French-speaking region of Switzerland.
Cornell in German-speaking Switzerland
The first time Cornell toured Switzerland as a solo artist, was in 2009 in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. Cornell told Blick magazine that his Swiss touring experience —with both his groups and as soloist— had been a good one. Mostly, however, he was impressed by Switzerland’s natural beauty,
I was shocked! I had never seen such a beautiful landscape. The lakes and mountains… I had only seen them in movies. I was really jealous of you Swiss. What a blessing you have to live there.
This is a rare video of the 2009 show at Club X-tra in Zurich.
Cornell’s performances in Switzerland seemed to have come full circle, playing with Soundgarden in Zurich in 2014. His band was the opening act for Black Sabbath at Hallenstadion.
“Chris Cornell praised the audience for showing up at a concert in spite of a Swiss game during the World Cup” that year, said Swiss metal magazine, Metal Inside, during the review of the concert.
While performing, Cornell reminded the audience of his first concert in Switzerland at the Roten Fabrik. A stone’s throw away but a world afar from the prestige of the Hallenstadion for a musician.
Music critics said the band in 2014, was a far cry from the Soundgarden they had seen in Zurich 25 years earlier. Regardless, Chris Cornell will always be remembered, in Switzerland and abroad, as one of the best voices in rock.
RIP and thank you for your music!
Related stories and obituaries:
- Swiss memories of a Prince-ly artist
- B.B. King’s sweet blues with Switzerland
- David Bowie’s glam connection to the Lake Geneva area of Switzerland
- Al Jarreau cancels Montreaux Jazz mentoring days before death