Nine Inch Nails - Barclays Center - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Nine Inch Nails - Barclays Center

by paul_guyet Rating:9 Release Date:2012-04-08

I attended both the Brooklyn, NY and Newark, NJ shows on October 14 and 15, respectively.

Here are the stand outs from each night:

'Piggy' - This was the first time the lights break the fourth wall, for lack of a better term. Up to this point, the lights had been utilized on the stage to highlight portions of the stage, but, here, they strafed out into the crowd in rays in time with the song's deep synth noise. Always with the gradual progression...

'All Time Low' - And here, specifically at the end, was where shit got real.

'Disappointed' - CONTINUED REAL SHIT. 

'Satellite' - You know how you'll listen to a new album and there are songs you just know will not be played live? This was one of them and when I heard the opening, I actually did a tiny, little girl hop. Then the ridiculous real-time wireframe visuals came up and... Well, I kind of just stood and stared. 

Holy fucking shit.

Roy, Rob, Trent... Take your dicks out of my brain.

'In Two' - Not as surprising as 'Satellite', but still surprising. The all-out assault of lights on this was just stunning, breathtaking. And the added harmony during the breakdown is, without a doubt, my favorite use of the two backup singers. The results were absolutely beautiful.

'A Warm Place' - My very first thought was: Holy fuck! 'A Warm Place'! I'd never heard this live before and I am so happy I got the chance. This was less like listening to a song as it was being swallowed whole by a song; a living, breathing womb. Utterly amazing.

'Somewhat Damaged' > 'Wish' > 'Burn' Excellent choice of arrangement. There was so much visceral anger in these three songs that I found myself acting like some belligerent little pit-shit for a moment. You can really tell Trent's been working on his vocal control with 'Somewhat Damaged' and 'Burn'.

Also, a quick note on 'Wish': For a while now, this has been on my list of songs I could do without at a Nine Inch Nails show. I mean, I've been to 13 NIN shows since 2000 and it's been played at every one. So. I added it to the list, knowing that I was going to hear it yet again and that I was going to sing along and pump my fist at the appropriate time, but that my heart wouldn't be in it.

Then, I saw it live and was swept up completely. And here's what I have come to realize: hearing 'Wish' played live gets old, but seeing 'Wish' played live? Tori Amos used to open her shows with an eight minute version of 'Precious Things'. It was... amazing. When her album, To Venus And Back, came out, the second disc had this eight minute live rendition on it as track one and I could never listen to the whole thing. You need to see it.

All this to say: please ignore any further complaints about the inclusion of 'Wish' on future setlists. Thank you.

'The Day the World Went Away' - One of my favorite NIN songs. Any time I get to see this live, it feels like a gift and this time was no different. Just incredible.

There were some substitutions the second night, namely 'Reptile' instead of 'Piggy' (and I'm going to side with 'Reptile' on this one. God damn, does this still destroy the world live), plus 'The Big Come Down', 'Into the Void' (another favorite and another one that worked very well with the female backup vocals), 'Echoplex' (good to hear, but seemed to lack something) and 'I'm Afraid of Americans' (which was so loud, so deliciously loud). In most cases, you could tell which songs were interchangeable by their lack of visual accompaniment.

The first and most startling aspect of my time at these shows was the complete and delightfully shocking abandonment of the tried and true (and boring) three-part live formula*. This is the first Nine Inch Nails concert since the year 2000 where I've had no idea what to expect** and the feeling was just sublime, although I was pretty sure 'The Hand That Feeds' was going to precede 'Head Like a Hole'.

Then, we have the new additions to the tour line-up, specifically sleepy bass god Pino Palladino and the two female, African American back-up singers, Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson. I'm mentioning their race because this was something I was concerned about, that they would add too much 'Gawspel' to the mix and, in some cases, that was a problem.

It was not a problem on "Into The Void", however, as the album version actually featured an African American back-up vocalist who added a lot to the original track. Their contribution was most felt, for me, on 'In Two'. Their presence transformed the bridge of that song into something just perfect. I only want to hear the live version now.

As far as what else they lent to the tour, I'll need to hear a clean concert recording before I can really determine. Off the top of my head, I think they stood out in a negative way on 'Disappointed' and 'Black Noise' and blended perfectly on the aforementioned songs. Overall, I think they should have functioned as texture and not overtaken Reznor, which, in a few instances, they did.

I also loved the visual references to past NIN stage setups, such as the Fragility v 2.0 'waves' during 'The Wretched', the Fragility v1.0 lighting pods in 'Somewhat Damaged', and, of course, the NIN logo (and the new version of said logo) during the end of HLAH from the 2006 Summer tour. But, while Reznor, Bennett and Sheridan seemed well aware of and connected to past incarnations of NIN live, the show itself seemed to lack cohesion.

While each song was, for the most part, jaw-droppingly impressive with regards to the visual set-up and the light programming, I didn't feel like this was anything more than a really amazing resume for Moment Factory; an opportunity to show the world how fucking awesome they are. Is this a bad thing? I mean, I had an amazing time, I was awestruck by some of the things I was seeing, so, do I really need to feel that a story had been told?

I might be less concerned with this if the tour weren't named. Even after seeing two shows, I still don't get where the 'tension' was supposed to be.*** I really , really hope this decision wasn't based solely on the merchandise, a lot of which had the word "tension" on it. Perhaps if there had been one, static set-piece which worked as a thematic anchor or more of a tie-in with the Mills visuals from the album...

Okay, now, as this is a place where I go to piss and moan and find fault with the things I love, I suppose I'll have to find something to bitch about. Uh... Well, aside from the tiresome but completely unsurprising (and necessary?) inclusion of 'The Hand That Feeds' into 'Head Like a Hole' (which amounted to a single hair in an otherwise delectable meal)****, the fact that I didn't hear 'Various Methods of Escape', 'I Would for You' and 'In This Twilight' (my favorite songs from their respective albums), and the lack of cohesion I mentioned earlier... You guys, this was a unique and incredible experience for me, and will be for you too, if you manage to catch it live.

Before I wrap up, just a quick word about Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who opened for NIN both nights. I didn't know anything about these guys except that people seemed to have vague hatred for them. I did a little research, as I like to be at least somewhat familiar with openers and kept finding EPs, but no full-length albums...until I looked a little closer and saw that these four or five or six-track EPs were full-length albums, most of the songs clocking in at around 20 minutes or so. Ah ha.

They worked, overall; there was a hugeness and a great calm at the heart of their 30 minute, two-song set, although I'm not sure if I'd call what they do self-indulgent or hilarious or brilliant. Probably not that third one. Whatever their motivations for doing what they do, they seem dedicated to it. Might interest you, if you are patient and/or into pot.

* Part one ending with 'Gave Up', part two being all quiet and moody and visual, and part three starting with 'Wish'.

** Except for the ending, which was ruined by some trenchmouthed piker on Twitter. 

*** Unless you count the pre-show music, which included 80s horror movie soundtracks, selections from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo score (cool to hear on such a huge speaker setup) and other ambient, sparse electronic stuff.

**** And we're talking, like, the hair of a really attractive woman whose hair you wounldn't mind eating... Like Deborah Ann Woll.

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