Reliving 18: Front Row at Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails

It seemed like a concert I would stalk out tickets for months in advance but I let the joint Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails concert sneak up on me. A day or two before there were great tickets for cheap on Craigslist. Then a buddy from the Ten Club pointed me to a guy looking to unload a front row seat. Gee, OK.

The show itself was surreal in a few ways.

Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were obviously in the thick of the rotation on my Aiwa "stereo" in my teenage bedroom where countless ripped out magazine pages of hair metal gods had been replaced by a giant poster of Eddie Vedder leaning against Jeff Ament.

On March 8, 1994 as I breezed through senior year in high school, Soundgarden released Superunknown and Nine Inch Nails released Downward Spiral. On the same day. Can you imagine? So this tour really felt like it was meant to be…even if it was 20 years later.

From the front row, Soundgarden's sludge was overwhelmingly loud and I was thankful for earplugs. Towards the end though I had to ditch them. They played "Burden In My Hand" which is a favorite and that was good timing to adjust to the distortion as "Rusty Cage" followed. It was a bummer that Matt Cameron was replaced with Matt Chamberlain, but hey, I believe Pearl Jam comes first too. The drumming was not as crisp or as precise but Chamberlain gets the rhythmic stuff right.

Both sets were precisely timed. 80 minutes for Soundgarden, 90 minutes for NIN with 30 minutes for a stage change. In my youth I would have decried both acts for playing the "hits" and using the same stage sets, video montages and lighting they likely reuse every night, but damn if it wasn't entertaining and hit all the right spots of nostalgia for me.

I mean Trent Reznor came onto a bare stage in a SKIRT before leaning over his little digital doohickey to get their set going. Unlike Cornell who looks nicely "weathered" as he gets older, Trent seems to be trying a bit too hard to relive the past. Still, he had the chops of old and its still quite remarkable at how a band with so much digital leaning on record can rock out like they do live. And the stage set-up was mesmerizing at times too.

As I escaped the parking lot quickly, right after the 11 p.m. curfew-induced last note, I wasn't as giddy as 18-year old me would have been seeing two of the biggest bands of the day. Still, I was home in bed a little after midnight and could get some sleep before work in the morning all after seeing two near flawless sets by bands that have grown old quite well.