It's been a couple of decades since Trent Reznor started the industrial rock revolution with Nine Inch Nails. And if the Academy Award and Golden Globe winner (!) decided to rest on his laurels or just phone it in, you really couldn't blame him. However, from the performance that Nine Inch Nails gave to close out the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival on Sunday night, that is the furthest thing from Trent Reznor's mind.
Starting with a series of blank canvases as backdrops, Reznor entered the stage solo and, once provided with a drum machine by a roadie, kicked off "Copy of A." As the song progressed, the other members of Nine Inch Nails would join him one by one, with their instruments also placed in front of them as they arrived. Essentially, it was starting a concert as an installation art piece (if you're familiar with Talking Heads' 1983 tour Stop Making Sense, the beginning concept of NIN's show was the same), building the song and the visuals simultaneously.
While in the beginning Nine Inch Nails were performing in a bare-bones manner situated like ducks in a row (and occasionally bumping into each other), the backdrops soon parted making room for a proper set-up and more space for the band to run around. And that's when the visuals and lighting really kicked in.
What started with roadies with handheld lights on each member, quickly progressed to an overwhelming light and video show (if you have an issue with strobe lighting, this would not be the concert for you). But the video and lighting was never haphazard or even spontaneous for that matter; every visual moment of the concert was well thought out. Even the start of "Closer" showed Trent Reznor's face digitized over sperm (if you're familiar with the song's lyrics or music video, you know why this is completely appropriate).
Reznor, dressed in a black racer back tank and long black kilt, and looking like he just came from the gym, interacted with the crowd on occasion, thanking them a few times but was more concerned with carrying on with the show. After running through a set that included music from their forthcoming album Hesitation Marks (which Reznor joked "I think it's out right now), Reznor stated "Alright, a few more hits" before blasting into blistering versions of "The Hands That Feeds" and "Head Like A Hole." For anyone in the audience who actually remembered the 90s, it was great to see Nine Inch Nails tear through "Head Like A Hole" with the energy that they had 20 years ago, complete with Reznor launching his guitar into the air at the end of the song.
Ending with an extraordinarily haunting version of "Hurt," Reznor and Nine Inch Nails brought the show to a powerfully affecting close, serving as a reminder to the audience that all the gadgets in the world don't necessarily make music great. It's the emotional impact that matters.
Copy of A
Came Back Haunted
March of the Pigs
Help Me I Am in Hell
Me, I'm Not
Find My Way
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
For more information on the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival, click here.
If you liked this article, click the Subscribe button above to receive email updates when a new article by this writer is published. You can also follow Christina on Twitter @SmartBermyGirl.