Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live Show Review: Nine Inch Nails - 10/18/13

Nine Inch Nails
Date:  October 18, 2013
Venue:  Verizon Center, Washington, DC

Nine Inch Nails returned to the Verizon Center last night and, as expected, proceeded to blow the roof off the place.  This was the 14th stop on their North American "Tension 2013" arena tour, showcasing an overhauled and expanded stage show - building on their recent and comparatively minimal, Talking Heads inspired, festival tour show.

Trent Reznor (center).  Get your damn jazz-hands up!
Trent Reznor and crew ran through a satisfyingly lengthy set featuring many new tracks from their recent album Hesitation Marks, peppered with older fan-favorites.  Always putting on a live extravaganza unmatched by most touring bands today, cooked up by longtime NIN art-director Rob Sheridan, a complex stage setup of hanging lamps, retractable LED screens, and visual projections was in constant motion - transforming every song into a new visual spectacle. 

Just in case you forgot who just rocked your world.
Though Hesitation Marks is largely thin on live-instrumentation, constructed mostly on a skeletal framework of drum machines and synthesizers, in a live context these newer tracks took on new life.  Now supported by two gospel-choir backup singers, a la Rolling Stones, Reznor led the band through awesome renditions of new booty-shaker "Satellite" and the Prince-level-of-funky "All Time Low" - an album cut I had struggled to appreciate fully before, but am now convinced will be a future tour classic. 

Ooh, pretty red screens.
Apart from obvious old-school sing-along classics "March of the Pigs," "Wish," and "Head Like A Hole" I was pleasantly surprised to see that more recent "sober-Trent" tracks like "The Hand That Feeds" and "Survivalism" got the black-leather clad crowd frothed up in equally aggressive fashion.  Strangely, the band never did play their biggest and naughtiest hit, "Closer," but did play the rare "The Big Come Down" from The Fragile - a personal favorite.    

Closer "Hurt" featuring that same creepy snake from every show since '94.
I was hoping to bust out my best Carlton dance to a live version of their wacky and absurdly upbeat "Everything" (reminiscent of a jangly mid-80's Cure) from Hesitation Marks, but alas it did not make the Verizon Center setlist and has yet to be showcased live anywhere (as far as I know).  Jokes aside, I'm convinced that tune would be a real monster played live.  Maybe next time.  Reznor drew big cheers from the audience after pausing to speak momentarily, recounting the first time he played DC with Nine Inch Nails - opening for Skinny Puppy at the old 930 Club in 1988.  From DC's tiniest clubs to its biggest arenas, Nine Inch Nails has been going strong for 25 years.  Here's to 25 more.

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