Tuesday night my wonderful wife and I attended the Nine Inch Nails concert in Little Rock along with our friend Bryan and a friend of his. Before the concert Ashley and I ate dinner at PF Chang's, which I am convinced is operated by the devil--it's been quite some time since I have had consistently good and unique Chinese-style food; I don't care if it's a commercial chain designed to appeal to American palates--they are good at what they do.
On to the NIN show... Saul Williams, a poet and hip-hop historian, opened up the show with his interesting blend of rap and slam-style poetry; his DJ was stellar. Saul seemed very down-to-earth and sensitive. I know that's an odd thing to write about someone who I have not met personally, but he really connected with the majority of the audience by sharing personal stories and thoughts about his travels through the South (he is from New York). The only problem with his performance is that it was too short. Incredible booming beats, too!
Next up, NIN. I have been a fan since the beginning; shortly after Pretty Hate Machine was released in 1989, I was at Wal-Mart purchasing it (back when Wal-Mart would carry a diversity of music, even if an album had "dirty" lyrics). PHM was instrumental in the development of my musical tastes, and I am forever grateful for that. It opened up my mind to accepting music outside of the norm; in that pre-internet era it was difficult to hear non-mainstream music in Hot Springs, AR, so I began buying tapes, sound unheard, based on what I read in Spin magazine and correspondence from friends in other parts of the state. PHM was the first such purchase.
Trent Reznor (the man behind NIN, if you didn't know) is seemingly an eternally dark person, but he has been clean and sober for about four years now, so his demons are a little different now. Sporting a buzz cut and looking like he's been hanging out at the gym a lot over the past few years, Trent took to the stage and immediately controlled it. Our seats were the closest to the stage without being on the floor, and that position allowed us to see behind the curtains that were holding in vast amounts of smoke during the opening songs (Pilgrimage and Love Is Not Enough). Even though he was hidden from the majority of the audience, it was clear from our view that Reznor and his band were focused and ready to perform; they delivered a show with emotion ranging from quiet vulnerability to unbridled fury.
The visuals were completely complimentary to the music; the back of the stage was dominated by LCD screens and LED strips that resembled city skylines, some of which were turned on their heads. The LCD screens displayed a range of images to match the mood of the music. About half of the way through the show, the front curtain dropped again and served as a film screen for some primal images of animal instinct and human destruction. The crowning moment for the crowd was a shot of George and Laura Bush dancing overlayed by the music and lyrics of Eraser:
I can't get over how tight the band was and how strong Trent's vocals and performance were. He had a couple of minor screw-ups with lyrics, but considering how vastly different the set lists are from night to night on this tour, it doesn't surprise me, and they weren't so bad that performance was ruined. I also got quite a kick out of seeing Trent using a tambourine during several songs; he looked like he was having a lot of fun performing and interacting with the audience.
Here is the set list, with my favorite performances marked with asterisks; the album each song is from is in parentheses. Thanks to schwilj for posting this on echoing the sound, a Nine Inch Nails discussion board. The discussion pertaining to this show can be found here.
Pilgrimage (The Fragile)
*Love is Not Enough (With Teeth)
You Know What You Are? (With Teeth)
*Terrible Lie (Pretty Hate Machine)
The Line Begins to Blur (With Teeth)
*March of The Pigs (The Downward Spiral)--an extended version filled with venom
Something I Can Never Have (Pretty Hate Machine)--I did not expect to hear this!
The Big Come Down (The Fragile)
Closer (The Downward Spiral)--this had a different, more mellow feel to it at first, then exploded
Burn (Natural Born Killers soundtrack)--another I did not expect to hear
*Gave Up (Broken)
*Eraser (The Downward Spiral)--simply incredible buildup throughout the song
Right Where It Belongs (With Teeth)
*Beside You In Time (With Teeth)
With Teeth (With Teeth, duh)--with-a teeth-ah
Deep (Tomb Raider soundtrack)--the only song I don't own and don't really like all that much
*Only (With Teeth)
Wish (Broken)--loud, loud, loud
*Every Day is Exactly the Same (With Teeth)
*Hurt (The Downward Spiral)--I had gotten tired of hearing the NIN version, especially with how Johnny Cash turned this into his own song so very well, but the performance was raw and built slowly into the final last twisted chords
*The Hand That Feeds (With Teeth)
*Head Like A Hole (Pretty Hate Machine)--wow! This was an incredible way to end the show and it is great to hear how Trent and co. have rewritten and rearranged classic NIN songs to make them fresh and relevant while remaining true to the original idea of the song.
This was a great show; if I have the chance to see NIN again on this tour I will not hesitate to buy tickets.