Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails rock the night at the Susq

Soundgarden delivered an intense performance of their best tracks Wednesday night.
Soundgarden delivered an intense performance of their best tracks Wednesday night.
Posted: August 02, 2014

What raged in the '90s - the post-Zeppelin grunge-metal of Soundgarden, the crepuscular industrial firestorm of Nine Inch Nails - still seethes today. Each act's latest album (Soundgarden's King Animal of 2012 and Nine Inch Nails' Hesitation Marks of 2013) is a crisp representation of the past refreshed for the present. Wednesday night's concert featuring both bands at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center suggested that that present has a bright future.

Soundgarden lead vocalist Chris Cornell sounded fresh and forward-looking. In 2007 he strained his vocal cords, and ever since he has relied heavily on his lower register to convey his lyrical mix of wonderment and disgust. On Wednesday though, Cornell's squeals and screeches put Robert Plant to shame as the singer made his way through Soundgarden's finest tracks. "Black Hole Sun" and "Superunknown" allowed Cornell to prowl around his lower register with falsetto blasts. Numbers such as "Outshined" and the herky-jerky "Let Me Drown" opened the gates to his full-bodied high register.

Cornell could not have accomplished what he did without guitarist Kim Thayall's thick, Jimmy-Page-like scrawls of fuzz and feedback on "Spoonman" and "Beyond the Wheel." Honestly, folks, the immensity of Soundgarden was probably as close to hearing Led Zeppelin again as we're likely to get.

Nine Inch Nails, the headliner, offered similar dynamism and might, but with far more invention. Band architect Trent Reznor amped up the industrial-strength aggression for which NIN is known, but he also offered solace in the contours of electronic music, from house to glitch, even in its quietest moments.

This did not mean NIN lacked in ferocity. "Head Like a Hole" was crunching and incendiary. "The Great Destroyer" brusquely devolved into noise-electro reminiscent of Suicide. "March of the Pigs" warranted a ferocious, neo-rockabilly rhythm to go with its wifty pianos. Reznor's presence was as big as NIN's sound, as the muscular front man (it's still weird seeing him all pumped up) found soul in the strangest places: a slinky version of "Piggy," the ominous swelter of "The Wretched," and, most particularly, the quiet of "Find My Way" and its elegantly simple piano line.

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