Concert Reviews

Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden at Gexa Energy Pavilion, 8/17/14

Nine Inch Nails With Soundgarden and Cold Cave Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas Sunday, August 17, 2014

While some folks may have been attending religious services this Sunday evening, I found myself wandering around Fair Park in need of some classic alternative rock of the '80s and '90s variety. Seeing that a terrific double bill of Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails was in town to play at Gexa Energy Pavilion, I was in the right place at the right time.

Thankfully, a surprise summer thunderstorm cooled things off enough to make an outside show in August quite acceptable. Well, at least at first it was. Once the sun went down and the breeze became negligible, the 85 degrees and 85% humidity turned the venue into a rather stinky sweatbox.

See also: Soundgarden's Kim Thayil: "We Have Never Made a Record That Sucked" Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden Screaming to Dallas (Yes, It's Still a Big Deal) The Five Silliest Things Trent Reznor Has Ever Said, in Honor of Nine Inch Nails Reforming

As the masses poured inside, one thing became perfectly clear: tonight would be a night of lines -- long, long lines. For some obscure reason, gates were not opened until 7:00 p.m. and the resulting queue was 200 deep in an instant. Security was especially tight and extremely slow. By the time Soundgarden hit the stage at around 8:00, barely two-thirds of the crowd had made their way inside.

All of which is a shame because Chris Cornell and crew were outstanding. Playing basically a greatest hits set, Soundgarden mined those Led Zeppelin influences for all they were worth. Beginning with "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" and quickly transitioning into "Spoonman," Soundgarden were on top of their game all night. The crowd responded accordingly by shouting along with each chorus and swaying like a sweaty collection of grunge zombies.

When Soundgarden launched into "Outshined," the audience became one with the band. It was as if those in attendance were transformed back to 1984 when everyone was a hell of a lot thinner and perhaps a little less stoned. Finishing the set (predictably) with "Rusty Cage" and "Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden left the fans wanting more. You can't ask for more than that. Or can you?

Well, you can ask for remotely clean restroom facilities. By far the worst of any local venue, the restrooms at Gexa are deplorable. A large stream of tainted water flowed incessantly as men and women tried to relieve the call of nature. God help the guy wearing sandals in front of me as the stream from hell gathered steam and made its way to God knows where. But despite the disgraceful conditions, the line grew and grew as folks just had to do what they had to do.

When Nine Inch Nails hit the stage at 9:30, many bailed from the bathroom line and decided to hold on the best they could. Judging by the conditions of the lawn area, I am sure a few bloated patrons decided to make due against a wall figuring no one would detect a difference.

But whatever discomfort fans may have had, Trent Reznor certainly alleviated the pain with a sensual dose of easy-to-digest industrial rock. Opening with "Copy of A," Reznor quickly engaged the crowd with his trademark sneer and the sheer physicality of his music.

Nine Inch Nails are successful because Reznor has found a way to produce music that just appears to be edgy. When compared to Ministry or Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails are really closer to Depeche Mode. Sure, Reznor over emotes at every conceivable moment and the music does have its distorted cleverness, but it's a manufactured angst. It's like the difference between a gentleman's club and Hooters. Somehow, Reznor has made seedy, electronic rock appealing to the masses. Hell, these days he looks more like a high school history teacher anyway.

And more power to him. Songs like "Sanctified," "March of Pigs" and "Reptile" were seductive and damn catchy. There's no denying Reznor's ability to tame industrial music and make it palatable for a larger audience. By the time the band made it to "Head Like a Hole" and "Hurt," both artist and audience looked weathered and ready for bed.

The humidity hit those exiting like an anvil as fans of both Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails left satisfied, sweltered and in serious need of a shower.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers