Nine Inch Nails bring ‘apocalyptic’ show to Irvine’s Verizon Amphitheater

Posted on September 9, 2014


Photo by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Photo by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

By Rachael Mattice

OC Weekly

Nine Inch Nails and Sound Garden
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

After 20 years from both of their breakthrough albums “Superunknown” and “The Downward Spiral,” both heavily popularized ’90s- scene leaders Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails proved their relevance in 2014 at their joined tour stop at Verizon Amphitheater on Friday, August 22.

While focusing on their 80 and 90-minute sets respectively on their star albums, their featured songs off of Soundgarden’s 2012 “King Animal” and Nine Inch Nails’ 2013 “Hesitation Marks” kept the momentum of the two bands rolling. Nine Inch Nails’ elemental industrial rock proved more apocalyptic in the age of technological-produced music, infusing the movement of the crowd with a kinetic set of sound and visuals from the previously stone-statue crowd during the grunge set.

NIN opened with “Hesitation Mark”‘s track “Copy of A,” with muscled founder and mastermind of the band Trent Reznor moving to the stage first, doted with a kilt, sweat and leather boots. White, minimalistic video screens accompanied the entrance of the other four band members one-by-one; the leaned out and simple introduction teased the audience before the sensory explosion. Reznor used his multi-instrumental ability to slam tambourines, stab at heavy guitar riffs, pound out chords of the piano and deliver hiss-heavy vocals while passing through “1,000,000,” “Wish” and “March of the Pigs.”

Ilan Rubin’s hypnotic drumming opened for Reznor’s stage-right-angled singing view during the sexual “Closer.” The penetrating color of red fogged the screens as he wailed into the camera directed in front of his face. The emotion emitted from the colored-screens, intense fog and fluttering white lights fed into the energy of hits like 2005’s “Hand that Feeds,” 1994’s “Piggy,” and the bass-driven groove of 2005’s “Only.”

Nine Inch Nails followed their traditional no-conversation concert set to the audience with a mere “Thank you’s” from Reznor to the audience. However, their voice became louder, more raw and self-loathed during the closer “Hurt,” as visual messages and images of death flooded the back screens with venus fly-traps, nuclear explosions and corpses from executions. The mutual emotional sendoff between band and attendees left a memorable thirst for future Nine Inch Nails performances.

Earlier in the night, Seattle’s Soundgarden commenced with 1991’s “Searching With My Good Eyes Closed” and traversing back to 1988’s “Ultramega OK” to 2012’s “King Animal,” with a set focus on their seminal release “Superunknown.” Vocalist Chris Cornell’s conversational additives between songs briefly personalized the depth of the songs, in between wailing into classics such as “Spoonman,” “The Day I tried to Live,” “Fell on Black Days” and “Black Hole Sun.”

Although taking into consideration they are mid-tour, Cornell’s high notes did not seem to hold as much potent strength as previous tours. However, bassist Ben Shepherd held his consistent pissed-off-at-everything expression during the entire show, as guitarist Kim Thayil’s energetic, ripping guitar solos and Matt Chamberlain’s enlivened drumming tore through the amphitheater.

Before Soundgarden closed with 1988’s “Beyond the Wheel,” Cornell said the song was “inspired by taking the innocent and using them to achieve your will” before Sheppard plunged into his bass strides and Thayil’s ringing guitar feedback bled out long after the quartet exited the stage after a steady, yet entertaining performance.

Mattice is a music journalist for the OC Weekly and Metal Insider. She can be reached at or on Twitter @RachaelM_OC.

Posted in: OC Weekly