August 27th, 2014 at Sleeptrain Amphitheatre
Openers Cold Cave were good, but not that good, so they won’t be described here. All I could think while listening to them was how different this show would’ve been if it was in New York (because math-metal gods Dillinger Escape Plan opened all the East Coast dates) or if Death Grips hadn’t broken up (they were originally slated to be the opening act for the entire tour). Cold Cave’s Tears-For-Fears-keyboard-jams were dwarfed—not only by the bands they were on tour with, but also by the bands that should’ve been openers instead.
Anyway, Soundgarden. My older sister caught the Superunknown fever, but I didn’t. I did grow up hearing all their radio hits though, and they all hold special places within my soul. I felt apprehension—would I cry in cathartic joy when “Black Hole Sun” came on, or would I shrug indifferently while waiting for these old fogies to get off the stage?
I’m not sure how many songs passed, maybe two, before I was completely engrossed. They were a little old and lazy, yes, but these songs are good… and Chris Cornell can fucking WAIL. This guy’s pretty old, and he can still scream—high, rich, loud shouts that sent chills through my spine, again and again. It was great vindication as a young metal singer to see an old guy who can still bring banshee-shrieks out of his lungs with ease and regularity. “Fell On Black Days” brought the most feels, and the high, high, high notes Chris executed for 2 minutes straight in the closer “Beyond The Wheel” brought home the knowledge that I’d just seen one of the best rock singers of my life.
This was Nine Inch Nails’ second touring cycle in support of their comeback album Hesitation Marks, and I subjected myself to as many cuts of it as I could stand pre-show (I managed three), the better to enjoy myself while waiting to hear them play the good, old stuff.
These newer tracks actually fit in beautifully with the set, which touched upon every major NIN release since 1990. As a whole, the set was dirty, dense, extremely catchy bass music on an epic rock scale that only NIN songwriter Trent Reznor could achieve.
Trent and his band (just three others this time, including the legendary Robin Finck from the Downward Spiral days) kept the between-song banter to an absolute minimum, but their visible, physical intensity helped the crowd to feel intimately connected to them nonetheless.
The six-thousand strong crowd was nicely stirred early on by the mosh pit anthem “March Of The Pigs,” but surprisingly, what compelled everyone to really lose their shit was 2005’s “The Hand That Feeds.” Maybe the track had so much positive energy tonight because it served as a bridge between the straight electro-pop of the new material and the older, emotionally desperate industrial-metal that made NIN famous.
My favorite personal moments included an instrumental passage of grimey, glitchy bass music during “The Great Destroyer,” and the closing song “Hurt,” where I had a good tearful moment with my goth-teenager past self.
Chris Cornell’s still got it. Trent Reznor’s still got it. Long live the nineties!