Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden
PNC Music Pavilion
Aug. 7, 2014
That didn't end up being the band's final performance. After a brief club "farewell tour, Reznor reconvened NIN into something a bit more electronic and revived the band for a new era. Last year, the group performed at the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in Asheville and I walked away with mixed emotions.
Last night, at PNC Music Pavilion, I soaked in the band's nearly 90-minute set with a newfound appreciation for Reznor's artistry and music. I knew that the band wouldn't put on a performance like 'Roo, but I didn't expect them to. Reznor ended that era of Nine Inch Nails and has modernized it. Instead of pounding bass drums, there's pounding bass. Electronic backdrops form the song textures instead of churning distortion-filled guitar riffs as Reznor's emotion-fueled lyrics drive forth.
Trent Reznor, 49, could have easily rehashed the same old sound as he entered his late 40s, but he had to restyle his songs to make them fun again. And fun is what they are. "Sanctified" is now driven by clicks and bass rhythms instead of by a drumbeat. Reznor has slowed his vocals on the song, too. The band made the most of a series of movable LED screens to transform the stage into different looks — either as a solid backdrop, or angled sections.
That's not to say everything has changed. Reznor and Co. still hammer the hell out of "March of the Pigs," "Wish" and set closer "Head Like a Hole." So while Nine Inch Nails can give tastes of the past, they're definitely focused on the future. It may have taken me a few years to get used to it, but I'm definitely looking forward to what the band has to offer down the road.
If you were in attendance at his 2013 solo show at the Knight Theatre, you could hear that well enough, but last night, with the help of his Soundgarden mates, all the band's songs got extra weight behind them. Guitarist Kim Thayil soared through riffs, bassist Ben Shepherd looked relaxed while holding down the low end and drummer Matt Chamberlain filled in nicely for Matt Cameron, who is touring with Pearl Jam.
It's no surprise the band's setlist was heavy on the fan favorites from Badmotorfinger and Superunkown while paying little attention to the 2012 reunion album, King Animal. Aside from still relishing the idea that the band is back together, they've also been touring to support Superunkown's 20th anniversary.
While both bands sounded stellar, it was an interesting dichotomy of one act that is looking to the future and another that is still doing just fine reliving its past. After all, Soundgarden was on hiatus for 12 years, so it's just going to take them some time to catch up. They already sound better than their 2010 Lollapalooza performance, one of their first reunion shows.
Thankfully, neither band is just cruising through a greatest hits set, or simply cashing in a paycheck. They're both relevant, and needed, on a musical landscape that's ready to welcome rock 'n' roll with open arms.