Us kids have a thing or two learn from the original grungeheads. I say “kids” because I was perhaps the youngest person out of the 9,500 people who flooded the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater to see Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails Monday night, apart from the 14-year-old who spewed the occasional “MOM!” behind me. It’s been five years since Nine Inch Nails last played Tampa, 18 for Soundgarden, and the response was an enthusiastic one. [Text by Jackie, photos by Tracy.]
While I’m proud to announce that my first intro to the alternative rock icons was while listening to “Hand That Feeds” and Superunkown in the car with my mom on the way to second grade (for questions/concerns about my childhood, my email is provided below), it’s the older, since-day-one cult following who comprises the true fandom — which, I suppose, explains the 30 million albums sold collectively between the two bands on this bill.
Cornell’s voice was precisely how you remembered it circa 1994: like sex dipped in melted chocolate, rolled in gritty crushed almonds and served on a gold plate of sludgy metal goodness. Or something like that. He goaded the audience mid-set with a “Let me see your hands, c’mon,” while catering to newer tunes like “Burden In My Hands” and “Been Away Too Long.” With SG bassist Ben Shepherd keeping nonchalantly to the side and Cornell coolly swinging his mic around, the supergroup offered just the cool grunge façade I had been hoping for. The set was wrapped up with a hopeful speech about ending war one day, “when we’re smart.”
Trent Reznor’s grand entrance was a bit quieter. He stalked onstage in an anticlimactic way, eventually followed by the rest of the four-piece group, and they cannon-balled headlong into “Somewhat Damaged.” Visual elements played a huge role throughout the show with constantly morphing images on the nomadic screens and epileptic fits of light (in lieu of the urgency and angry vibes of the music, I assumed).
The show was intense. And not because of the theatrics or the plague of ass grabbing that spread throughout the audience (but seriously, is this a thing at NIN concerts? Again, my email is below). It was a set of 16 songs and raw, unadulterated emotion; somewhat of a religious experience for the diehards. In fact, I recall the stage tech walking right up behind Reznor with giant light and giving the appearance of a halo over his head as he ripped out, “Salvation comes only in a dream…”
Maybe it ended too soon, or maybe it only felt that way due to the persistent speed. Of course “Closer” and “Hand That Feeds” were highlights of the show, but I think it was the little unrehearsed moments that made the performance sincere, like Reznor pattering on the keyboard in a eerie predator fashion, or the contagious energy of Ilan Rubin on drums. The night ended with the inevitable: an encore of the windswept anthem “Hurt.”
My life has been changed in several ways since Monday night's impressive double bill: First, I’ve developed a very uncomfortable crush on Chris Cornell (“But his voice — but his hair — but he’s 50!); second, I've beat my own personal record of witnessing a so-and-so amount of Tool tee-shirts in one setting (my guess is 32); and lastly, I have this insane, unexpected, new-found love for heavy metal and industrial rock. As Reznor would say, “This is the first day of my last days.”
Jackie Braje is the Editor at The Minaret. She is also a one-time CL intern-turned-freelance Ear Buds contributor. You can reach her at [email protected]