Audioslave, Astoria, London

A band of two halves
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

More than any other form of music, hard rock has a profound sense of loyal nostalgia. Careers that appear effectively dead when seen through the eyes of the media and chart figures can carry on for years, even decades, and often in the most unexpected outposts. New combinations of musicians, no matter how apparently incompatible, are guaranteed a curious audience.

More than any other form of music, hard rock has a profound sense of loyal nostalgia. Careers that appear effectively dead when seen through the eyes of the media and chart figures can carry on for years, even decades, and often in the most unexpected outposts. New combinations of musicians, no matter how apparently incompatible, are guaranteed a curious audience.

So the idea of Chris Cornell, histrionic vocalist of the not-quite-knowing Soundgarden, most metal of all Seattle's grunge bands, fronting the extraordinarily deft musicians from the now defunct Rage Against the Machine, Los Angeles's explicitly political funk-metal troupe, fascinates from the start. Audioslave's self-titled debut album deals in that very nostalgia from the off. Produced by Rick Rubin, an expert in reviving American legends, its collection of balladry and shameless steals from Led Zeppelin just about manages to conceal the essential musical differences between the two parts of the line-up. At times it reaches levels of excitement worthy of comparison with its inspirations, notably on the single "Cochise", a gloriously concise copy of "Whole Lotta Love".

There's a real sense of anticipation among tonight's crowd too, as Audioslave appear in a room probably little bigger than the spaces they've rehearsed in over the years. Kicking off with the triple whammy of "Light my Way", the raucous "Set it Off" and the anthemic "Gasoline", they look set to pull it off. Cornell looks every inch the rock star, while his cohorts are as tight as you'd expect of men who've been playing together for over a decade. Guitarist Tom Morello, the man who first realised that you didn't need turntables to scratch, remains as imaginative and commendably restrained as ever, while the rhythm section of Brad Wilk and tonight's true star, bassist Tim Commerford, are effortlessly funky in whatever style they choose. They really are a dance band at heart.

But the battle for the soul of Audioslave is apparent whenever they slow the pace. Cornell's predilection for doomy ballads is indulged rather than adored. Despite the musical intelligence of songs such as "Like A Stone", they don't seem to offer the sense of genuine collaboration present in the band's more relentless tunes. If one of hard rock's most endearing traits is the fact that every single introduction is loaded with potential, Audioslave at times take this to absurd lengths as their two distinct styles seem to be the work of completely different bands.

Not that this necessarily detracts from the fun. The inevitable encore of "Cochise" is riotous, while no one seems to care that they refuse to approach their own extensive back catalogues. Audioslave are certainly impressive, and so possibly combustible to make them a must see. But you'll emerge in a mood to marvel at your old Rage records.

Comments