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Review: Soundgarden Simmers, NIN Well Worth the Wait at FMBA

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 27, 2014 5:30PM

Photo by Marielle Shaw/Chicagoist

We predicted that the trek out to Tinley Park's First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre to see Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails would be worth the drive. And, while a review on traffic would be absolutely blistering, we can say that once we were there on what turned out to be a beautifully clear night, we were glad we came.

The aforementioned traffic meant that, unfortunately, we missed the opener, Oneohtrix Point Never. But we were settled in by the time Soundgarden took the stage.

Chris Cornell’s vocals still soar easily over the Seattle grunge sound we've always been so fond of. We thought they picked a great mix of favorites and less well-known tracks while always keeping a driving pace.

One of our favorite moments from their performance was Spoonman. It was during this track we thought Soundgarden captured the crowd and hit their stride really connecting with the crowd. Overall, though, we were a bit underwhelmed. Spoonman aside, we never really felt they captured the excitement of the crowd. They were playing what we came to hear, but the excitement and energy that brings you to your feet at a live show seemed lacking.

This was not at all the case for Nine Inch Nails. When the lights came up after the set change, it was Trent Reznor alone against eerie shadows. From there, it was a slow build as he launched into Copy of A, a single from Hesitation Marks. It emanated from stage softly at first, building to a crescendo which peaked just as the lights went up to reveal the rest of the band.

Even though it was a new track that may not have been instantly recognizable by everyone in the audience, it already seemed like he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Reznor is a dynamic frontman, and Nine Inch Nails have the range and talent to keep you on the edge of your seat. (Or blanket, as it were). They don’t have to “take it down for a few tracks” because one song can be so soft as to make us strain to hear it, and then ramp up to a roar you feel in your bones.

We heard a good variety from the entirety of their catalog, from Only and Closer to The Hand That Feeds, 1,000,000 and March of the Pigs. And while we’re not fans of overly complex lightshows, the stage setup and lights during the Nails set served to enhance the mood and really accent things.

As the night neared an end, we were sad we didn’t have more time with Reznor and the band. He’d mentioned earlier in the show that he wouldn’t be back in Chicago “for a while” which was the only downer in an otherwise incredibly captivating show. The closer for the night was Head Like A Hole, a song the whole crowd enthusiastically joined in on—and one we’ve always been prone to getting stuck in our heads for weeks.

Our favorite moment of the night—and honestly, one of my favorite concert moments bar none—had to be in the encore. Reznor came out under the stars one more time to play Hurt. He’s said himself that he thinks the song turned out to be written for Johnny Cash and that particular performance.

People will debate about which version of the song they like best ad infinitum. But, on that clear night, under those stars, and with the gut-wrenching emotion Reznor brought to every single note that hung in the air, you couldn't think about any other version—or, for that matter, any other song.

It was chilly out, sure, but the goosebumps were all courtesy of Reznor. The music and lyrics were already a work of art, but it’s an absolute masterpiece when sung with all the emotion they imply. For moments like that, we’d make the drive all over again, and, even if it’s quite a while, it’s clear that at least for a Nine Inch Nails show, it’s worth the wait.