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September 20, 2017

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Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell is pure audio gold; innovative Trent Reznor commands Axis stage


Adam Shane

Frontman Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performs Saturday, July 19, 2014, at Axis at Planet Hollywood.

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Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs Saturday, July 19, 2014, at Axis at Planet Hollywood.

Nine Inch Nails at the Joint

Nine Inch Nails at the Joint on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

What is up with Chris Cornell’s voice? How is the Soundgarden frontman still so strong, still that good? Pure audio gold that has the same magic that it always has carries on today two decades after Soundgarden’s bestselling album, “Superunknown,” was released.

Cornell embodies that ageless rock star look, and as the crowd seems to get older, he remains unchanged, his voice as strong as ever. Soundgarden came on with a huge bang Saturday night at Axis in Planet Hollywood, but their second song of the night, “Spoonman,” really grabbed the audience and highlighted the beginning of the set.

“Black Hole Sun,” the seventh song into the show and one of Soundgarden’s biggest hits, had everyone singing the chorus and was one of the defining moments of the show when artist and audience truly connected. Walking around between songs, speaking to the audience with a connection that you don’t see too often anymore between musician and fan, Cornell began talking about the recent wave of EDM and how grunge still remains relevant.

Speaking of how people deal with the world, Cornell said, “Some people party, and some people stare at their shoes and throw up black ink,” describing his lyrics and sound in the latter part of the statement. With all the overproduction in music today, it was refreshing to see an act that brings it back to raw roots, every drum beat and distorted guitar riff being played aggressively right in front of the crowd.

Nine Inch Nails followed by starting with “Copy of A,” immediately showing the differences between Soundgarden and NIN. The stage presence provided by Trent Reznor and company is a completely different show, yet the two sounds of the bands are intrinsically linked by grunge and rock. Reznor commands the stage in a way that few musicians can ever hope to achieve.

Except to label Reznor as only a musician is lacking; the entire presentation, specifically the visual aspect, is of its own world and helps define him as a truly innovative artist. The constant addition of new elements to the stage was nearly interactive, as if participating in something incredible being built.

As for the lights, there were bright flashes of white over the different backdrops spread across the stage. It’s less colorful, yet somehow remains expressive. The pops of color that followed were attention-grabbing.

Although both bands are made up of obvious talent, this is really a display of two of the most gifted frontmen of rock music. To compare them is to compare apples and oranges, two species, yet belonging to the same family.

Where Cornell is more expressive and unchained in between songs, Reznor is the opposite. Reznor exudes calmness when he speaks, but then immediately shifts to his exhibit — he becomes the installation. The forms from both men are energetic and engaging. What makes them so enjoyable is how different they are and yet how connected the show is.

Their show is multidimensional, specifically as it relates to NIN and the brilliant contrast of Soundgarden and NIN on the same stage. This is not a show that offers one flavor; the audience member is treated to an array of sounds and artfully created presentation. Fans experience a full scope of rock music and how varied it can be within its own genre.

Soundgarden’s setlist: “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” “Spoonman,” “Non-State Actor,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Let Me Drown,” “Outshined,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Like Suicide,” “The Day I Tried to Live,” “My Wave,” “Superunknown,” “A Thousand Days Before,” “Rusty Cage” and “Beyond the Wheel.”

Nine Inch Nails’ setlist: “Copy of A,” “Sanctified,” “Came Back Haunted,” “1,000,000,” “March of the Pigs,” “Piggy,” “Terrible Lie,” “Closer,” “Gave Up,” “Me, I’m Not,” “Find My Way,” “The Great Destroyer,” “Eraser,” “Wish,” “Only,” “The Hand That Feeds,” “Head Like a Hole” and “Hurt.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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