Friday, November 22, 2013

the aging of nine inch nails and its audience

Nine Inch Nails’ Tension 2013 Tour // Photo by Rob Sheridan
In 2000, Nine Inch Nails were touring in support of Trent Reznor's epic double-disc concept album The Fragile—the release that earned the band its first No. 1 charting. The Fragility 2.0 tour hit the Rose Garden that June, and as some friends were leaving for the show, they realized they had an extra floor ticket.

I took that ticket.

A puny, buzz cutted, buck twenty-something high schooler in crisp Gap jeans and unblemished Adidas trainers, we turned our backs on the warmth of the summer sunshine and made our way through the dim recesses of the Rose Garden with our neon wristbands securely attached, wristbands that warned: "The Rose Quarter does not condone MOSHING OR BODYSURFING" and threatened those participating with (self-inflicted) "injuries and/or eviction."

Although this was my first-ever arena show—my first real mosh pit—I knew there was no way the combat boot-donning, black eye shadow-painted, pierced and pale contingent around me, with spiked accessories around wrists and necks and more barbs skewering shoulders and lapels, would heed this advisory.

Thirteen years and five studio albums later, and after a period of indefinite hiatus for NIN, it all seemed so much tamer when Reznor and Co. took the freshly christened Moda Center stage on Monday, November 18, 2013, supporting Hesitation Marks, the band's eighth studio album and first one back after the aforementioned self-imposed break.

That's not to say the show wasn't a quality one.

Photo by Rob Sheridan
Trent Reznor would never half ass a performance and he brought the visual firepower in the form of a blinding, hypnotizing and schizophrenia-inducing light show, all rhythmically timed to his oft-abrasive anthems. The luminous apparatuses were multi-dimensional with swiveling robotic flashes hanging just above the performers' heads, as well as a metal grating that descended to divide the band and the crowd, effectively creating an illuminated cage where laser beams formed glowing bars and digital flames danced before the band. Wavelengths shook and shivered with interference while the precisely electrified silhouettes during "The Hand That Feeds" were impressive.

As expected, he also brought the aural bombast with a corrosive intensity intermittently complimented by poignant moments of delicate beauty—what we've all come to expect from the industrial composer and producer known to mix harshness and grace in the same breath, spouting fire and ice, distortion and clarity.

The vibe wasn't exactly docile, but then again, it didn't feel nearly as hostile as it did 13 years ago. There was definitely audible aggression in the chants of "Now you know, this is what it feels like" during "The Wretched," and a compact mosh pit seemed to be alive and well during the appropriate moments ("Terrible Lie," "Survivalism," "Head Like A Hole" and "The Wretched").

Admittedly, I was observing all this from my comfy press perch rather than in the thick of it where, all those years ago, I was literally lifted off the ground due to the crush of chunky, fleshy masses collapsing on all sizes while sweating profusely, fighting off lightheadedness, and gasping for air with an intensity I've only experienced since in the sweltering confines of a claustrophobic Bikram yoga studio—all in an attempt to score a glimpse of the equally impactful triptych stage setup designed by Bill Viola.

This time, there was no salvo of crowd surfers incessantly launching themselves over the barriers, nor a massive push and shove of clammy bodies stumbling to and fro in a tightly packed pit. It wasn't very intimidating, and maybe that's because everyone was too busy holding up their cell phones.

Read the rest on OMN.

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