Live Review: Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden – Hollywood Bowl
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 08:25:25
Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden further etched their respective places in the pantheon of rock's greatest acts of all time with their current tour. In fact, these deities transformed the Hollywood Bowl into their very own Olympus last night.
Looking at the show in terms of Greek mythology, Chris Cornell unleashed a thunderous wail and chugging distortion akin to Zeus's thunderbolt, while Kim Thayil's torrential riffing awakened the seas like only Poseidon could. Emanating raw energy, Ben Shepherd's bass walloped with a war-ready potency on par with Ares. Matt Chamberlin held down the groove, masterfully, adding an all-encompassing bounce that could've risen right from Hades' Underworld. Simply put, Soundgarden took a thirty-year catalog of timeless rock 'n' roll and turned it into a stunning catharsis for the packed Bowl audience.
On the other end of the spectrum, Trent Reznor commanded the lights on stage like Apollo. His enlightened take on rock music always challenged the status quo, but during this tour he also redefined what a live performance is, manipulating light, shadow, and sound to conjure a full-on sensory onslaught. Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails both stand on their own when it comes to records, but their shows also remain vastly different. The same could be said for Cold Cave whose opening set in both Irvine and Los Angeles transmuted new wave emotionality into a darker, crisper, and ultimately more poetic 21st iteration of its initial skeleton. In fact, Cold Cave don't just update the genre live with Wesley Eisold's entrancing, flawless delivery, they reinvigorate with an original approach.
Soundgarden roared to the stage with the psychedelic snap of Badmotorfinger's "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" before a rhythmically hypnotic "Spoonman" incited Richter Scale-worthy movement across the Hollywood Hills. Thayil locked and loaded Louder Than Love's gun with airtight fretwork and mind-blowing riffing as Cornell's wail pierced the night sky and carried all the way back to the Pacific Northwest. The Badmotorfinger combo punch of the swaggering "Outshined" and thrashier, needling "Jesus Christ Pose" pummeled with divine intensity, practically crashing psyches with the metallic perfection inherent within each.
At one point, Cornell smiled, "We've wanted play here as a band ever since The Brady Bunch played here. This is a fucking dream come true! Thank you!"
They earned that place on the Bowl's coveted marquee during haunting performances of "The Day I Tried To Live", "My Wave", and "Rusty Cage". However, "Black Hole Sun" burned into everyone's mind with its satanically saccharine melody that's as insidious as it is infectious. There's nothing like hearing the band's clarion call from Superunknown during a cool summer night—except watching them slay during super old school gem "Beyond The Wheel".
Nine Inch Nails followed with an equally powerful yet completely different set. Reznor stormed the empty stage solo with just a sampler for a kinetic rendition of Hesitation Marks standout "Copy Of A". He practically assaulted the microphone and sampler with an unparalleled hyper-charged force. He's not that guy who made The Downward Spiral two decades ago. He's even more inspired and intense. Shadows blossomed from the band members on to white screens behind them as "Copy Of A" morphed into the ultimate futurist anthem before cascading into a devilishly danceable "Sanctified" from Pretty Hate Machine. "Came Back Haunted" summoned ghosts of his past, while haunting with its own distinct charm. Reznor gripped the mic so tightly he could crush it during a pummeling "1,000,000", while "March of the Pigs" bathed the crowd in light, razor sharp guitars, and the frontman's immortal howl. A spotlight shone behind his head during "Piggy" adding a noir-ish darkness to the delivery, while "Terrible Lie" practically ripped a hole in the stage as Robin Finck, Ilan Rubin, and Alessandro Cortini ravaged their instruments, while delivering each note with smart bomb precision.
"Closer" got the audience up and moving, while "Gave Up" and "The Great Destroyer" respectively raised the bar for heavy music, combining industrial grind with guitar grit. "Eraser" bled into one of the night's most powerful moments "Wish". Reznor carried each word with the vitriol and venom that marked Broken, but he added a robust aura that couldn't be topped or denied. "Head Like A Hole" transported everyone back to the first moment they heard Nine Inch Nails, and "Hurt" made the audience speechless as the band's mastermind left everything on the stage in one final moment.
In the end, these gods left Olympus triumphantly, and the venue and everyone in attendance will never be the same. In fact, we're all better for being there.
Were you there?