By Chuck Cox
Talk about a tour that was destined to happen.
Nineties stalwarts Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden are sharing a bill this summer, taking enthusiastic audiences on a very loud trip back in time. The big twin bill made a stop at a packed and sweaty Gexa Energy Pavilion on Sunday night.
It wasn’t a surprise it was my first time seeing both bands. Although I enjoy several songs from each, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of either one. And I was definitely in the minority on Sunday. The guy in front of me had a Nine Inch Nails logo tattoo.
But both bands won me over live. My first time to see Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden certainly won’t be my last.
As a recent Rolling Stone story pointed out, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral and Soundgarden’s Superunknown were both released on March 8, 1994, occupying the top two spots on the Billboard album chart.
After a solid 25-minute opening slot by a very 1980s-sounding (in a good way) Cold Cave, Soundgarden took the stage shortly before 8 p.m. with the sun still shining bright. And, man, Chris Cornell still sounds absolutely incredible. Dude’s voice doesn’t sound any different today than it did the first time I heard it in college. Amazing.
Soundgarden spread out 13 songs over 70 minutes, and there was not a single false step. Opening with “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” the band played several favorites, including “Spoonman,” “Burden in My Hand,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Rusty Cage” and “Black Hole Sun.”
Even the songs I was less familiar with were awesome. It was really, really enjoyable. Bassist Ben Shepherd was either being theatrical or was really upset at the end of the set as he threw down his guitar and did his Johnny Football impression by flipping off the crowd.
And when it was over, I thought to myself, “Man, Nine Inch Nails has some serious huevos rancheros to come on after such a great set.” It didn’t take me long to figure out why that decision was not ill-conceived.
I had heard great things about Nine Inch Nails’ live show. And they were absolutely right. The industrial rock pioneers absolutely knocked it out of the park.
There is nobody better than Trent Reznor at delivering angst-filled, hard-driving songs with incredibly infectious beats that make keeping your head still impossible. Even though the band didn’t play everything I wanted to hear, I wouldn’t have changed the set list one bit. It was perfect.
The show started with Reznor coming out on stage by himself with the house lights still on as he kicked into “Copy of A.” Eventually, he was joined by the rest of the band with a very cool stage show that included moving pieces and tons of lights with some magnificent choreography.
Like Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails played a nice variety of songs from the last couple of decades, including some of my favorites, “Came Back Haunted,” “Terrible Lie,” “Closer,” “Wish,” “The Hand that Feeds” and the spectacular set-closer “Hurt.” At times, the bass moved my hair. That’s a pretty sweet concert experience, if you ask me.
Even after 90 minutes of Nine Inch Nails, I wanted more.
Do yourself a favor and catch these bands the next time around. You won’t be sorry.