After walking on stage to a standing ovation Sunday night at Benaroya Hall, Chris Cornell humorously recalled that nobody seemed to like him when he was a boy.
“I just seemed to annoy everyone,” he said with a chuckle as the audience burst into a roar.
The sold-out solo concert was a boisterous homecoming for the lead singer of Seattle rock band Soundgarden, which reunited several years ago after a long hiatus (and Cornell’s stints as a solo artist and member of the group Audioslave).
But even without the backing of his powerful band, Cornell was a dynamo, powering through the nearly 30 songs featured on his retrospective, semi-acoustic “Songbook” tour. Some were dark, gritty and urgent, others melancholy and reflective. But each carried an emotional punch.
He opened with “Silence the Voices,” a post-9/11 song about terrorism, violence, war and the internal voices that prevent normal people from committing terrible acts (a vinyl LP and turntable provided the instrumental accompaniment).
The 2½-hour concert included such gems as “You Know My Name” (which Cornell wrote for the James Bond movie “Casino Royale”), “Misery Chain” from the soundtrack to the upcoming film “12 Years As a Slave,” and a smoldering version of the Soundgarden classic “Black Hole Sun.”
Cornell was joined by several guests, among them Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd, who accompanied him on “Halfway There” (from Soundgarden’s current album, “King Animal”) and “Fell on Black Days.”
Opening artist Bhi Bhiman, a Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter, played acoustic guitar with Cornell on “Hunger Strike,” one of several songs in the set by Temple of the Dog, the 1991 tribute band dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone.
Thanking fans for their support over the years, Cornell dedicated the title song from “Down on the Upside” to his Soundgarden bandmates (the album was the group’s last recording before its 1997 breakup).
Opener Bhiman met the band last year on the British TV show “Later with Jools Holland” and was subsequently hired to accompany Cornell on tour.
Dubbed “the Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie” by his record label, the talented Bhiman performed such songs as “Guttersnipe” and Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” accompanied by concertgoers who whistled the latter song’s distinctive melody.