Chris Cornell’s suicide has, to say the least, sent rock fans into a state of shock. With medical examiners having confirmed that the 52-year-old Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman had apparently hanged himself in his Detroit hotel room, friends, family, and fans alike are wondering what could have pushed such a talented, successful individual to take his own life. But two new accounts suggest that there was something a bit off in the grunge legend’s behavior, both while on tour and during Soundgarden’s Wednesday night show at Detroit’s Fox theatre, a concert that would turn out to be Cornell’s last.
Speaking to Clrvynt‘s Fred Pessaro, Dillinger Escape Plan singer/guitarist Ben Weinman expressed shock, like so many others have, at Cornell’s unexpected passing. At the time of the interview, reports of Chris Cornell committing suicide were still speculative, but Weinman did paint a picture of a man who often fancied himself as a loner, one who would “fly into the show” and return to the hotel, while the rest of his bandmates would socialize with their opening act.
On Soundgarden’s most recent tour, Dillinger Escape Plan served as one of their opening acts on several dates. Weinman says that Cornell was unusually quiet during that tour. But he still inspired admiration in the younger musician, as he had appeared to be in good health, with a loving family and a successful, prosperous career as a veteran of the rock scene.
“On the last tour that we were on together, he was sort of very quiet. But at the end of the day, he was just this unicorn that you stared at in awe. How does he do it? ‘I’ll have what he’s having.’ He’s got a beautiful family, unlimited amount of resources, looked like the perfect picture of health. What kind of vitamins is he taking?”
Weinman reiterated later in the interview that Chris Cornell, in the days leading to his apparent suicide, was “very private” in his interactions, but nonetheless “very (much) into his family.”
Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell died by suicide, medical examiner says https://t.co/LKfOOUiCdx
— TIME (@TIME) May 18, 2017
Ben Weinman’s comments are those of a man shocked by the loss of a friend and fellow musician, but nowhere in his interview with Clrvynt did he speculate about Cornell’s cause of death. But now that it’s been confirmed by officials that Chris Cornell committed suicide, fans have been looking for warning signs that may have manifested in the rocker’s last days.
Detroit Free Press reporter Ashley Zlatopolsky was at the Fox Theatre Wednesday night to watch Soundgarden as a longtime fan. She recalled that the “benefit of hindsight” wasn’t needed to determine that there were several things off about the band’s performance, starting with Cornell’s lack of energy onstage, even early on into the concert.
“He often staggered back-and-forth across the stage, and seemed weak in his movements. Just one or two songs in, it was as if the energy had exited his body, and what was left was a shell of a man scrambling to do his job.”
Soundgarden take the stage at 8pm tonight at the @FoxTheatreDet. Doors open 7pm.
— Soundgarden (@soundgarden) May 17, 2017
— Soundgarden (@soundgarden) May 16, 2017
Aside from appearing listless for most of the two-hour show, Cornell forgot lyrics, “sometimes in entire blocks,” with the enthusiastic, 5,000-strong crowd filling in the blanks with gusto. However, as Zlatopolsky described it, Chris was also “visibly agitated” and “irritable” at points in the concert, leaving the stage for an extended period of time and missing his vocal cues on multiple occasions.
More tellingly, Zlatopolsky quoted one particular line that sounded like a throwaway at first, but may have been a warning sign that Chris Cornell was contemplating suicide.
“I feel bad for the next city.”
Amid Cornell’s rambling commentary in between songs and the aforementioned strange behavior, Soundgarden did manage to have some fine moments where Chris was absolutely focused. This included the band’s final song of the night, “Slaves and Bulldozers,” which featured a snippet from Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” In the hours before Chris Cornell’s death was confirmed a suicide, some fans had speculated that this may have been his way of bidding farewell. This was a sentiment Zlatopolsky shared, as she described how hard it is to think of that final song in hindsight.
“But my mind thinks back to watching him onstage at the Fox, doing the refrain to ‘In My Time of Dying,’ struggling so hard to send a message — perhaps a hidden goodbye that nobody saw coming.”
The signs, assuming they really were hinting toward Chris Cornell’s suicide, may have been oblivious to many who attended Soundgarden’s Detroit show on Wednesday night. But one thing’s for certain – he will be missed by multiple generations of fans as he leaves behind an indelible legacy as a rock icon gone too soon.
[Featured Image by Buda Mendes/Getty Images]