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Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Planet Hollywood: concert review + setlists

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Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor performs July 19 at Planet Hollywood’s Axis Theater.
Photo: Adam Shane

Three and a half stars

Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden July 19, Axis Theater.

Nineties nostalgia tours are a hot commodity right now, but while Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were certainly two of the biggest rock bands of the ’90s, it wouldn’t exactly be fair to call their co-headlining tour, which kicked off at Planet Hollywood’s Axis Theater on Saturday, a nostalgia tour. Both bands remain vital, as they’ve proved with their most recent releases (Soundgarden’s 2012 King Animal and Nine Inch Nails’ 2013 Hesitation Marks), and as they proved onstage at the Axis.

Soundgarden's Chris Cornell

Soundgarden's Chris Cornell

At the same time, both bands devoted the majority of their sets to past hits, with Soundgarden drawing more than half of their songs from 1994 album Superunknown. When singer Chris Cornell contrasted the 20th anniversary of Superunknown to the current popularity of dance music, the audience erupted in boos, clearly eager to show their allegiance to the band’s time-tested hard rock. The band, who reunited in 2010 after a 13-year hiatus, obliged, delivering a tight, no-frills set punctuated by Cornell’s still-strong vocals and Kim Thayil’s ferocious guitar solos. It was disappointing to hear only two songs (“Non-State Actor,” “A Thousand Days Before”) from the underrated King Animal, but the hits-focused set effectively showcased the band’s top-notch songwriting.

Thayil and Cornell were in top form, but drummer Matt Cameron was conspicuous in his absence (he’s on tour with his other band, fellow ’90s rock titans Pearl Jam, and has been temporarily replaced by session veteran Matt Chamberlain, who himself once played drums for Pearl Jam), and bassist Ben Shepherd appeared very frustrated with something toward the end of the show, flinging his bass to the ground, shoving a roadie who attempted to help him and ending the show by knocking over his entire stack of amps. “As you may have noticed, some things are fu*cking up up here,” Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor noted during his band’s set, although whatever problems Shepherd and others (NIN guitarist Robin Finck also threw his instrument in frustration at one point) were having, they weren’t apparent from the audience.

Although the two bands played for almost exactly the same amount of time, NIN came off like the main attraction, thanks not only to the more enthusiastic crowd response, but also to their typically dazzling stage show, an intricate play of video screens, lighting rigs and the band members themselves. The pared-down group, featuring only four members, constantly switched instruments and positions onstage, creating a complex yet still intense performance. NIN’s set was a little more varied than Soundgarden’s, but it still focused mainly on the hits, with only three songs from Hesitation Marks. Reznor claimed that “this will be the last time we tour for a long time,” but then again, he also announced the group’s retirement from touring in 2009, and that didn’t last long. Either way, the concert was a reminder that NIN still put on one of the most creative and engaging shows in rock. If nostalgia brought fans in the door, then the immediacy of the performances kept their attention once they got there.

Soundgarden setlist:

“Searching With My Good Eye Closed”

“Spoonman”

“Non-State Actor”

“Fell on Black Days”

“Let Me Drown”

“Outshined”

“Black Hole Sun”

“Jesus Christ Pose”

“Like Suicide”

“The Day I Tried to Live”

“My Wave”

“Superunknown”

“A Thousand Days Before”

“Rusty Cage”

“Beyond the Wheel”

Nine Inch Nails setlist:

“Copy of A”

“Sanctified”

“Came Back Haunted”

“1,000,000”

“March of the Pigs”

“Piggy”

“Terrible Lie”

“Closer”

“Gave Up”

“Me, I’m Not”

“Find My Way”

“The Great Destroyer”

“Eraser”

“Wish”

“Only”

“The Hand That Feeds”

“Head Like a Hole”

“Hurt”

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