:: NIN ::
:: Soundgarden ::
:: Red Rocks Amphitheatre ::
:: July 21, 2014 ::
Photos by Lisa Siciliano/Dog Daze Photo
Words by Joe Kovack
Writer’s note: This review is of Nine Inch Nail’s performance Monday night. Not to take anything away from Soundgarden’s co-headlining performance, but I have recently reviewed them at Red Rocks and decided to focus on NIN, a band I’ve wanted to review for years. Slideshow pics of NIN then Soundgarden.
Nine Inch Nails IS Trent Reznor. Since 1989, Reznor has been inventing, tearing apart, and then reinventing the industrial/metal/electronic world he created. Twenty-five years after that first album, Nine Inch Nails—the manifestation of Reznor incarnate—brought Red Rocks to its knees with blistering industrial heaviness and infectious, seductive electronic grooves, all set against a world-class hypnotic stage and light show.
Reznor is a composer, bandleader, front man, and musical genius. The full gamut of his discography exemplifies his constant evolution as a musician—having created his own unique sound and style while continually altering it to move forward with the times. Monday night’s show at Red Rocks highlighted the full breadth of his eclectic repertoire. Opening with “Copy of A” from his latest album Hesitation Marks, Reznor emerged to an empty stage with only his mixer in front of him. As the beats echoed off the rock walls, each band member appeared one at a time to join Reznor in electronic harmony. No special lights or screens were yet deployed, mirroring the simple yet driving rhythms of the song. As they moved into “Sanctified” from Pretty Hate Machine, large LED panels appeared behind each member with just enough light to create silhouettes of each. A few years ago Reznor remixed this song into a plush, bass-driven melody from the somewhat dated, 1989 highly-synthesized version. For the first three songs drummer Ilan Rubin was up front, showing his versatility while playing guitar and keyboards as needed alongside Alessandro Cortini, Reznor, and longtime NIN contributor Robin Finck.
Once the song ended, Rubin ran to his kit and started the intro drums to “1,000,000”—a good transition from the first three electronically weighted songs into the heavier, industrial/metal sound that is NIN. “Come on pigs” Reznor said as the lights dimmed, sending the crowd into a frenzy. “March of the Pigs,” from his seminal album The Downward Spiral is a representation of Reznor’s angst-fueled early days—fast, angry, intense, and never disappointing live. “Piggy” followed next and is a personal favorite live. Reznor’s emotional vocals and the simple yet smooth bass drew the crowd in while a subtle synthesizer loomed in the background until after the second chorus when all hell broke loose—as Rubin displayed beautifully chaotic drumming that contrasted with the modest melody of Reznor and rhythm of the bass.
The seven large LED panels continued to change positions on stage for each song, seamlessly moving without notice, and showing varying degrees of pulsing, strobe, and sweeping colors and lights. Next came the crowd favorite and mainstay of Reznor’s set list “Terrible Lie.” Something about this song still resonates 25 years after its release lyrically and sonically. Fans sang at the top of their lungs just as Reznor screamed, “Can this world really be as sad as it seems…Terrible Lie!”
The rest of the set was a mix of songs from NIN history; hits like “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” amid old heavy songs like “Gave Up” and “Wish” along with the slower, more electronically-driven “Me, I’m Not” and “Find My Way.” A highlight was “The Great Destroyer,” as Reznor took over and showcased his ability to make loud, heavy, anarchic bass-laden beats better than anyone today (sorry dubstep fans). The beats and the unique sounds he creates—which sound like heavy-duty machinery having sex with a computer on the fritz—enveloped the crowd, and for a few minutes blocked out any external stimuli except for the vibrations created in and outside the body. The set ended with a single encore song “Hurt” which Reznor sang with his passionate yet powerful tone. It’s an emotional song to end with, but the audience sang with Reznor, joining in unison through the melancholy embrace of one of Reznor’s most personal songs, and feeling just for the moment, that all was one and right.
Reznor’s evolution as a musician is unequivocal. While the angst-ridden days of his youth are behind him, he continues to create intriguing music straddling the lines of electronica and his signature industrial sound. Whether or not you like his latest albums, there’s no question that Nine Inch Nails is still one of the best live shows you will ever see. Reznor and company still exude the energy of those twice their junior and their state-of-the-art light show/display is equal parts hypnotic and unique while being highly accentuating to the music. Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails, and it shows every tour.
*My only critique…next time how about some songs from Fragile and deeper cuts from The Downward Spiral.
(Co-headliners Soundgarden were great too!)
NIN Set List
Copy of A
Came Back Haunted
March of the Pigs
Me, I’m Not
Find My Way
The Great Destroyer
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole