Nine Inch Nails - 10/14/13 - Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY) Review
by JHGFD

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To preface this review I should mention that I’m not the diehard Nine Inch Nails fan that: 1. dragged the spouse to see this show, 2. listened to every album and was looking forward to certain songs, 3. had this band on a “bucket list” that only had one other group on it, and 4. saw this show a day after their birthday. That would be my wife in this case, but I have listened to The Downward Spiral and enjoyed a few cuts on Year Zero and Hesitation Marks.

Seeing Nine Inch Nails live at this point in time didn’t seem late in the game. Trent Reznor was jumping around, screaming, playing and throwing guitars (within the first ten minutes, too) — all the things a rock star should do — which works from an arena rock perspective. The light show was immense, borrowing a lot of elements from the How to Destroy Angels live show (a band fronted by his wife, Mariqueen Maandig) and incorporating distorted video noise, flashing LED lights, and multiple forms of panels for light projections. All of this made for a very entertaining show

The setlist included tracks from the vast NIN catalog and stayed close to what casual fans would enjoy, even though “Closer” was noticeably absent (though I don’t think anybody complained about that). You could sense they went for a lot of deep cuts to keep things fresh, especially if you notice how varied the list can be from show to show (the Prudential Center show the next day featured the live debut of “The Big Come Down” from The Fragile and a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans”)

Setlist:

Copy of A
1,000,000
Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
Piggy
All Time Low
Disappointed
Came Back Haunted
Find My Way
The Frail
The Wretched
Satellite
In Two
Survivalism
Running
A Warm Place
Somewhat Damaged
Wish
Burn
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

Encore:
The Day the World Went Away
Even Deeper
While I’m Still Here
Black Noise
Hurt

Everybody was on top of their game. The drumming was dead-on for the most challenging of rhythms. “March of the Pigs” sounded triumphant and “Survivalism” roared ferociously while it fueled the random mosh pit on the floor. "The Frail" and “The Wretched” were heart-wrenching as Trent was bathed in dark blue stage lights while “Piggy” was played so well it sounded like it was brand new. There was not a trace of age or malaise on anyone and they seemed more like they were on something than off anything

This is a big return for Nine Inch Nails. Not just in getting back to recording and touring, but actively participating with the music business at large. This is coming from a guy who defended the long-defunt music sharing site OiNK. The guy who marketed Year Zero with intense guerrilla marketing tactics including an unannounced live show. A regular tech nerd who reconstructed songs in Garageband and then released it to the public for remixing purposes

And that’s what brings me to Nine Inch Nails. It’s not so much the hits he plays or the way he can wow a crowd with lights and sounds, but what he does to just be an experimenting artist with tendencies to play in his sandbox rather than follow the rules of an autonomous, dying industry. There was some evidence of that with how he left the most dynamic visuals for the deep cuts. And yet, there I was also watching a guy who couldn’t run around in angst because he would have knocked into a video screen. I had to see this guy who I idolized for his strength as an unpredictable and destructive artist introducing his two backup singers that, as my wife put it, balanced his edge

Maybe I didn’t want to see balance; his message of hopelessness, drug addiction and political disdain watered down by mainstream adoration. Songs he would write about personal loss being interrupted by the drunk loud-mouth in the Radiohead t-shirt who insists on breaking the intense fragility of piano ballads with loud booms of deafening unconditional love. But at the end of the show I have a happy wife who loves her husband for fulfilling her dreams. And so does Trent. And I guess that’s what justifies it all

PS. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who just won the 2013 Polaris Prize for ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, were the opening band and if you can pay attention long enough to notice the subtle differences between each bar to really get their intensity, then their performance was breathtaking. For the majority of us, it was great music to check Facebook with

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