Nine Inch Nails devastates Vancouver's Rogers Arena

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      At Rogers Arena on Thursday, November 21
      Kanye West ought to take notes from Trent Reznor. On Thursday night, the Nine Inch Nails frontman proved that it’s possible to hit the road with a full band and a jaw-dropping array of lights and audiovisual equipment and still actually show up for your concerts.

      Mind you, Nine Inch Nails did a lot more than simply show up. From the moment the house lights went out without warning and Reznor and company kicked things off with the recent single “Copy of A”, to guitarist Robin Finck’s final sustained chord on the always-devastating “Hurt” roughly two hours later, the current touring version of Nine Inch Nails proved itself worthy of the rapturous response it received at Rogers Arena.

      Sure, you could quibble that the set was weighted a little too heavily with songs from the new album, Hesitation Marks, at the expense of a few certifiable NIN classics (“Closer”? “Happiness in Slavery”? Not at this show.) Other than that, it would be hard to find fault with the concert, which started with the band, all dressed in black, playing under stark white lights.

      It wasn’t long before Reznor was digging deep into his catalogue for a selection from the first NIN album, Pretty Hate Machine. “Terrible Lie” was reinvented as a triple-guitar assault, which ended with Reznor knocking his microphone stand over with his axe. This would be the only such display of spontaneous destruction during an evening that otherwise unfolded with clockwork precision, but no matter. The full-metal-jacket onslaught of the song that followed, “March of the Pigs”, brought its share of sonic destruction. It also gave powerhouse drummer Ilan Rubin his most vigorous workout of the night—with “Wish” running a close second—and it caused me to momentarily regret my decision to leave my earplugs in my pocket.

      Speaking of regret, you have to wonder if Pino Palladino ever wonders what the hell he’s gotten himself into. The veteran bassist is a master of his craft, but given that his CV includes stints with John Mayer and Simon and Garfunkel, he might not immediately spring to mind as the go-to guy for the world’s most successful industrial-rock band. Paul Simon never wrote a couplet quite like “Poisoned to my rotten core/Too fucked up to care anymore.”
      The spare simplicity of the staging was soon revealed as merely an opening gambit. By the time the band was playing “Came Back Haunted", a see-through scrim had descended at the front of the stage, upon which various amorphous, flashing images were projected. This meant that visuals were happening in front of the musicians as well as behind them, but you could still see them playing. Not bad. Take that, Yeezus!

      Musically, the highlights were many. They included a radically reworked “Sanctified”, which was played as a slow-building synth-droner with a machine pulse, a percolating fretless bass part, and full-gospel backing vocals from the duo of Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson. Best of all, though, was “Hurt”. The acoustic-guitar-based lament about the steep personal costs of drug addiction might not have been the most upbeat encore, but it may just be the finest, most affecting song Reznor has ever written.

      Opening act Explosions in the Sky specializes in a guitar-centric brand of instrumental postrock that is often predictable, but that's not always a bad thing to be. It’s not that all the songs the Texas quintet played sounded the same, more that they all seemed like different movements of one awesome rock symphony. Passages of chiming, pastoral beauty invariably gave way to ones of blaring, but always coherent, sound, and they always hit exactly when you knew they would, but there's something to be said for a band that delivers.

      It should be noted, however, that Explosions in the Sky’s most recent album—the score to the film Prince Avalanche—doesn't follow the above formula at all, but instead features dreamy ambient numbers and a lot of acoustic instrumentation. It’s all very subtle, and therefore not the sort of thing that would be likely to win over an arena crowd waiting for Nine Inch Nails.




      Nov 22, 2013 at 10:10am

      Please check the meaning and connotation of the word "devastate", use appropriately.

      John Lucas

      Nov 22, 2013 at 10:20am

      Well, our dictionary says it means "to overwhelm", smart guy. But thanks for playing.

      Andrew John

      Nov 22, 2013 at 10:38am

      Agree regarding over use of new material. He's perfectly within his rights to do so however. 'Somewhat Damaged' was the highlight of the night.


      Nov 22, 2013 at 11:20am

      Loved the "lean" toward the new material. His choice of songs from earlier stuff was exceptional and excecuted perfectly. I could actually hear his vocals. Rob Sheridan should be rewarded for such a beautiful stage concept too. Trent chose very little banter...introduced his players...delivered with an incredible focus. What a light show.


      Nov 22, 2013 at 11:43am

      That would be overwhelmed in a negative way. Most people at the concert were feeling pretty damn good!

      Tandice Bartlett

      Nov 22, 2013 at 11:57am

      It was beautifully done. NIN knows how to flow emotion in music.


      Nov 22, 2013 at 12:32pm

      Didn't Johnny cash write Hurt? C'mon !

      Miranda Nelson

      Nov 22, 2013 at 12:41pm

      Nope. Reznor did. Johnny Cash did a GORGEOUS cover of it. But it's a Trent original, from 1994's The Downward Spiral.

      Sarcasm Much?

      Nov 22, 2013 at 2:14pm

      Epic fail on the missed sarcasm, Miranda Nelson. Epic. Fail.