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Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden rock Detroit

Nine Inch Nails perform at DTE
Nine Inch Nails perform at DTE
Chris Schwegler

Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden concert at DTE Saturday, July 26th 2014


The mood turned dark before the sky could catch up Saturday night at DTE music theater in Clarkston, north of Detroit, when the rocking mega-double bill of Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails attacked the stage. The crowd, which ranged from teenagers to those in their fifties, were treated to a mix of songs, both classic and recent, from both artists during their well-balanced performances of 85 minutes each. This bill would have been even more amazing in 1994, as the bands were touring for their then-new releases, Superunknown and The Downward Spiral, respectively, but as both albums celebrate their 20th anniversaries this year, now is as appropriate a time as any for the two acts to join forces.

The evening began with a short, 25-minute set from Opn (ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER), a one-man, electronic act that featured deep bass beats and shrill, squealing accents. The few songs that were performed certainly aligned more, musically, with Nine Inch Nails, but the audience seemed mostly indifferent to this performance. After a short set change, music began behind a large black curtain as the four members of Soundgarden took the stage and prepared to rock. As the intro of their classic "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" segued into the main guitar riff, the curtain dropped and the crowd roared to its feet to welcome the classic Seattle alt-rockers back once again. The band's set was heavy on riffs and light on banter, with blistering guitar solos from Kim Thayil and a song selection that balanced the band's greatest hits with a strong sampling of, or introduction to, their brand of psychedelic metal to the uninitiated. The attitude in the performance, however, was more of a powerful statement and less of an invitation.

Soundgarden, performing with guest-drummer Matt Chamberlain, filling in while Matt Cameron fulfills his day-job duties in Pearl Jam, featured the six most well-known songs from Superunkown, as well as a sampling of other hits that had the crowd singing along throughout. By time the band finished their thoroughly-rocking set, the audience was ready for the main event, and after another break, the single light bulb which stood at the center of the mostly bare stage was approached by Trent Reznor, and with the push of a button, Nine Inch Nails' concert began.

Nine Inch Nails, still touring to support last year's comeback LP, Hesitation Marks, appeared this time in a stripped-down form of only three supporting players which recalled a similar configuration Reznor assembled in 2009. Veteran multi-instrumentalists Robin Finck and Alessandro Cortini joined NIN newcomer Ilan Rubin throughout the engaging performance which included a bit of music from almost every major release from the project's 25 years. The visual element has always been a big part of Reznor's performances, and Saturday night was no exception, with giant LED screens being moved around by stage crew between and during almost every song, and a tremendous light show throughout. No particular album-era was featured, but the crowd responded most favorably to the five songs from The Downward Spiral as well as the two from 1992's Broken EP. After an evening of precise musical execution, the band encored with their signature send off, the always-haunting and moving "Hurt," which the crowd sang louder than any other song performed that night. As the show came to a close, and the audience began its trudge to the parking lot, it was a great feeling to know quality rock and roll still exists and that it is treasured by so many, even in 2014.

Soundgarden Set List:
Searching With My Good Eye Closed
By Crooked Steps
Black Hole Sun
Jesus Christ Pose
The Day I Tried to Live
My Wave
Fell on Black Days
A Thousand Days Before
Burden in My Hand
Rusty Cage
Beyond the Wheel

Nine Inch Nails Set List:
Copy of A
Came Back Haunted
March of the Pigs/All the Pigs, All Lined Up
Terrible Lie
Closer/The Only Time
Gave Up
The Warning
Find My Way
The Great Destroyer
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
------------------------(encore break)--------------

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