Monday, July 28, 2014

Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden @ Molson Ampitheatre (live review)

It's been twenty years since Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden co-headlined an epic concert up at the old Molson Park in Barrie.  On Sunday night the two bands reconnected for a nostalgic show at Toronto's Molson Ampitheatre.

It was with much anticipation that 3/4 of the original Soundgarden line-up took the stage (drummer Matt Cameron was absent due to Pearl Jam obligations) to the See n' Say sounds of "Searching With My Good Eye Closed".

That kicked off a set that was heavy on the hits.  Badmotorfinger tracks "Rusty Cage" and "Outshined" were given spotlight treatment.

Being the 20th anniversary of Superunknown, that album got lots of play.  "Black Hole Sun" auspiciously began as the rain started to hit.  Chris Cornell proved he's still got the lungs on "My Wave", "The Day I Tried To Live", and "Fell On Black Days", while the band worked the crowd into a frenzy on "Spoonman".

At times the sound bordered on unlistenable.  The combination of poor mix balance and loose playing suffocated the nuances and underlying structure on complex songs like "Superunknown" and "Jesus Christ Pose", rendering them a hot jumbled mess of noise.

Ultramega OK's "Flower" was an important inclusion for the narrative of the group's career, but was treated as a bathroom break for many.  The same held true for new tracks from the recent King Animal reunion record.  The former radio hit "Blow Up the Outside World" was met with indifference (people finally realize it was never really that good a song to begin with).

There was zero showmanship (or movement for that matter) from the stage, which coupled with the off-sounding songs made it less than a stellar concert experience.

NIN portion of the night began with Trent Reznor and a minimalist set for "Copy of A".  It, along with fellow Hesitation Marks song "Came Back Haunted", held there own alongside the older material and were surprise highlights.

The hectic start-and-stop of "March of the Pigs" whipped the crowd up again.  As did "Eraser", The Downward Spiral number that proved to make another surprise connection with the masses.  There was no surprise however with the popularity of classics "Terrible Lie", "Gave Up", and "Head Like a Hole".

The backdrop was ever-revolving, at times it hypnotized you, only to have you jerked back by the slamming chorus of "Wish" or "The Hand That Feeds".

An audience of this make-up can rarely be described as 'dancing', but some facsimile of that actually happened on "Only" and "Closer".

More introspective, yet no less intense moments were provided by "Piggy" and "Sanctified".  The night-capper "Hurt" of course goes without saying.

In all the show reinforced the impression that I got when I saw these two bands together two decades ago: NIN are WAY better live than Soundgarden.


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