Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reunited Nine Inch Nails rip Nashville with explosive dance rock

Something curious occurred while waiting for Nine Inch Nails to go on last night: a giant curtain went up to obscure the view of the set being built. For a tour where anticipations were already sky high, having the set building process be totally secret just fueled the fire even more so.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is one of rock's most passionate frontmen.

The buildup proved to be worth it. Trent Reznor and crew muscled his way through a dynamic, sweat soaked performance when Nine Inch Nails's Tension 2013 tour made its stop at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Thrashing guitars merged seamlessly with cutting edge dance beats to create an explosive layer of energy that rippled through the building. Yet almost as intriguing was the stage setup crews had worked so busily on behind that curtain. The overhead lighting rig had nine sets of lights with nine bulbs arranged in rows of three apiece. These could be adjusted into various positions around the stage. Sometimes they might be directly over Trent's head, sometimes in a semi-circle position around the back of the stage.

This made possible for plenty of dynamic effects. When Trent wanted to be super illuminated it was possible, when he wanted himself and the rest of the band to be shaded in darker hues that could happen, and when he wanted only himself to be visible this could happen too. But that was only half of it. A metal grate would come down over the front of the stage, directly in front of the band, and onto this grate they would project lights and images. They did this for a series of Hesitation Marks songs, and it worked to great effect.

However, there is much more to being a great live band than pretty lights. You need great energy and fan hallowed songs, and NiN brought it. Their opening five song run, which included recent material such as "Copy of A" and "1,000,000," as well as old school tunes such as "Piggy" and "Terrible Lie" had the crowd raging and screaming along  Meanwhile, "Even Deeper" and "Somewhat Damaged" from The Fragile show off their capability to be a great rock band without a plethora of electronics involved. Even if you don't know the words, it's hard not to get carried away by the undertow.

Joshua Eustis injects some brass sound into the mix.

The material from the new album, Hesitation Marks strikes a dramatic change of pace from the band's well known hits. At times the juxtaposition seems strange, especially when surveying the more subdued Hesitation Marks material against their older, higher energy songs. So it's no surprise that many of those songs are cloistered into their own part of the setlist, taking place during the middle part of the show. To make up for the lack of energy, Reznor and art director Rob Sheridan coordinated a good chunk of the more intricate light shows to coincide with Hesitation Marks material. Its most effective pieces were "Copy of A," which sounded right at home in the opening set of songs, and "Disappointed," which featured Robin Finck going apeshit on a violin while being bathed in dreamy, psychedelic red and blue lights. It's the type of setup that George Harrison could totally respect.

They closed the main set with a devastating run of three high energy songs: "Wish," from their high octane Broken EP, "The Hand that Feeds," and finally "Head Like a Hole," on which Trent just let the crowd sing the chorus all by themselves. That run was the most sweat soaked I have been at a show in a long time. After a ravishing finish to the main set, the band returned with "The Day the World Went Away," the perfect low energy song to recuperate after what came before, but still anthemic and rare enough to be encore worthy. The drug fueled, mellow na na nas at the end come across like the anti-Hey Jude.

Later on during the encore, a dreary forest was projected onto the back screen. The deep blue and green shades set a subdued tone, while backup singers Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson got a chance to show off their own pipes a bit. It all ended with Finck strumming an acoustic guitar while the band closed it out with defining statement piece "Hurt." Projections similar to what had been seen by Godspeed You! Black Emperor flashed across the screen, but the fancy light and technology shows were done for the evening. In closing, Nine Inch Nails demonstrated what all great bands must: the power to captivate you with nothing more than the power of their imagination.

Large scale projections were a big part of NiN's repertoire.
Related posts:

Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks review 
How to Destroy Angels - Welcome Oblivion review 

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