Live Review: Nine Inch Nails - The Forum, Los Angeles
Mon, 08 Sep 2008 14:50:23
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It's hard to forget a Nine Inch Nails show. Each NIN tour has become legendary in its own right. In 1994, the Self Destruct Tour saw the band become an arena rock juggernaut in the wake of their essential classic, The Downward Spiral. The trek culminated with NIN's famous 1994 Woodstock set, which left a mud-covered crowd salivating for more. In 2000, the Fragility 2.0 trek saw the band emerge from years of silence and leave a trail of stunned, sold-out audiences behind them. Their 2005 headlining gig at Coachella caused jaws to collectively drop across the Indio valley, as did the With Teeth tour that followed. Those instances all have a healthy amount of time between them, and NIN's career seems marked by that prolonged quiet before the flashes of recorded brilliance.
However, since 2005, it's seems as if NIN hasn't left the road. So with that, Mr. Reznor has to keep crowds guessing. As prolific as ever—both Ghosts I-V and The Slip were released online this year—Trent decided to step his game up even more. It's because of that mentality that Lights In the Sky happened this summer. It's quite possibly one of the most thrilling aural experiences of the year. The show shouldn't even be called a simple "concert." It's much more than that.
Along with Kanye West's Glow In the Dark Tour, one of NIN's best attractions on this run is the light show. It's hard to compete with Reznor's epic vision on record, but live, it's even harder. At The Forum in Los Angeles, NIN kicked off a two-hour plus set with the pummeling combination of "1,000,000" and "Letting You." Immediately, a bombast of strobe lights ignited a sensory overload. The lights' intensity matched the music's staccato, industrial punishment. Reznor, clad in a blood-red shirt and black pants, commanded the death march. His razor sharp wail sounded more pained than ever, and he synched up with the gnashing guitars through each and every howl. Then came "March of the Pigs." As the band tore through the classic, the crowd went unequivocally crazy for the first time that night. From 666-emblazoned goth girls to blackberry-wielding L.A. industry types, everyone lost his or her mind to the din of Reznor's apocalyptic industrial thrash. When the keyboards took over, and he screamed, "Now doesn't it make you feel better," all eyes couldn't leave the stage. At the end of the song, he brought the audience back to 1994 again as he violently whipped the mic stand, throwing it across the stage. Meanwhile, the lights opened and closed like some kind of bionic curtain fluttering in the winds of pure aggression.
"The Frail," from the band's arguably most underrated album The Fragile, gave a slow, moody reprieve. Reznor took over the keyboards alone. One lone spotlight shone on him, as he strangled the crowd's attention with a maudlin, neo-classical piano melody that could serve as the most beautiful funeral dirge ever. The song's buildup was big and ominous, chronicling NIN's darkest hour within it's brightest show. During a heavier jam on the depressive stripper anthem "Closer," red lights bent back and forth, and everyone in the crowd chanted the song's church-prodding chorus.
"Gave Up" exploded with a viral intensity that flooded the crowd like a shockwave. It was a fiery explosion of energy, and then the curtain dropped. Sticks of light began dancing and gyrating, as Reznor and Co. stood behind a transparent screen. Their shadows resembled a gothic painting as the lights flashed around, faintly illuminating them during "The Warning."
After "Vessel," the band played an instrumental acoustic set culled from Ghosts. The set was quiet and trippy. It proved to be a bit long, but the outdoor backdrops gave the stage an entrancing depth that made up for the quaint ere. However, Trent quickly turned things around with a creepy, almost-acoustic rendition of "Piggy" at the end of the Ghosts section. Even though the instrumental section wasn't as powerful as the rest of the set, it still saw NIN pushing their own limits.
Suddenly, the snowy red foreground on the screen was erased like a skyscraper window cleaner, and the opening strains of "Pinion" began. Trent launched into "Wish," and its avalanche of lights and distorted energy simply bludgeoned. The raw feedback and massive groove were enough to spark equal amounts of moshing and dancing. "Head Like A Hole" resounded like a goth national anthem, while on "Only," Trent appeared within a snow of lights in front of the screen, washing away the fuzz. "Survivalism," "The Hand That Feeds" and "The Big Comedown" all proved equally incendiary.
Near the end of the set, Reznor spoke for the first time, asking, "Do you want to hear something happy and light or something depressing and horrible?" With a smirk, the band began the rarely played "Reptile," and its sensually strangling chorus ripped with a vile sexuality. The green lights and smoke functioned as the perfect foreground.
"Hurt" proved ever the poignant closer. As the last feedback strains rotted through the silence, it felt like NIN had become stronger than ever. A more positive ending, "In This Twilight" came as an encore, pushing NIN into the stratosphere. Lights In the Sky was nothing short of epic, and, in true Nine Inch Nails fashion, it'll be talked about for years to come.