Well, Nine Inch Nails is still around, and I have to say that I'm surprised that Trent Reznor has managed to stay relevant. Let me explain: Though it isn't news to those who pay attention to this sort of thing, Nine Inch Nails was huge in the early to mid-nineties, bloated as the millennium turned, and recently, a streamlined, focused machine that can effectively deliver above-average aggro-electro to those that want such a thing. And people do—Reznor's followed Radiohead's lead by making his latest Nine Inch Nails releases available online and in various editions, at different price points, thereby grossing millions
Clever distribution alone doesn't sell records, and crappy records won't put asses in seats—so by the turnout at the Rose Garden on Sunday, I'd have to say that the fans are pleased with what he's been up to [that $20 ticket deal probably didn't hurt, either. -Ed.]. And why wouldn't they be? Despite his claims to "hate you all," Reznor has always had a keen understanding of his following and a direct line to their emotions. In concert, he peppers his songs with a few extra "fucks" and leads the crowd in anthems of nihilist release, as sort of a cup-half-empty Bono.
I went to Sunday's show with a friend who had been a big fan of the band up until The Fragile
came out in 1999, which he claims was the biggest letdown of his life (at that point) other then Primus' Tales from the Punchbowl
. When pressed, though, he said that the appeal of Nine Inch Nails had been its legitimate threat. The band was dense, loud, and surrounded by a dangerous mystery—wasn't there was a banned tape of music videos somewhere that had a guy getting dissected
? As the band became more accessible, he became less interested, turning to German Digital Hardcore for raw, intense music. What we saw at the Rose Garden wasn't that Nine Inch Nails, because that Nine Inch Nails is dead. The internet has killed it, the machine
has killed it.
Reznor must have figured all this out, because the production he was a part of on Sunday night knew it to be true. For all of the lights and elaborate displays on the stage (and they were incredible, including three partially transparent effects screens lined up in front of one another that set the visual stage), the older songs sounded like standard rock songs, and the stage appeared largely barren, illuminated by plain lighting. It was during the newer material that Nine Inch Nails shone, with the aforementioned screens displaying visual representations of the music or returning to the theme of distortion—visual white noise that disrupted all Trent's video technology. It was a clever conceit, for more often than not the band was concealed by a screen of some sort, obscured by the magnitude of the production and letting Trent Reznor anguish within the machine he has been building all these years.
Nine Inch Nails' official website
Awesome PDX NIN photo by Elizabeth Kimball. See her entire photoset here