Nine Inch Nails “Lights Over America” Tour
Mohegan Sun Arena
August 7th 2008
In 2005, Nine Inch Nails released “With Teeth.” This is how I discovered the band, and at the time, I figured I was pretty late to the party considering that nearly every critic who reviewed the record panned it for being “unimaginative” and “lacking in urgency.” Apparently, Trent Reznor’s best days were far behind him.
Fast forward three years and three records later, and Reznor is once again being heralded as a musical mastermind and industry rebel, having released the latest Nine Inch Nails album, “The Slip” as an unexpected free download on the band’s web site earlier this year. Along with “The Slip,” The band’s 2006 full-length “Year Zero” and this year’s instrumental double disk “Ghosts” have both been well received and provided the band with a wealth of new material for their first North American tour in some time. Unlike many bands of their stature, Nine Inch Nails proved they have no intentions of resting on their laurels, playing a breathtaking two hours set comprised mainly of new songs and aided by the presence of an absolutely eye-popping light display.
After Georgia’s Deerhunter played an enjoyable but less than memorable set to a barely half-full arena, Nine Inch Nails took the stage to begin the show with the first four songs from “The Slip.” Dressed completely in black and displaying enough energy to power the light show behind them, the band had an unmistakable
“larger-than-life” aura, especially Reznor, who could have easily passed for a WWE star had a wrestling event taken place inside the arena that night. Vocally, I was shocked by Reznor’s performance throughout the show, for he sounded exactly like he does on record. I was even more surprised when I learned the next day that he was suffering from a vocal ailment at the time and was forced to cancel the next night’s show. This is probably why Reznor did almost no talking in between songs.
As the band moved onto older tracks such as “Closer,” “The Frail,” and “The Great Destroyer,” the now-packed arena roared it’s approval and a seizure-inducing light show began to take center stage. Backed by a moving wall of spotlights and strobe lights, Renznor pounced around the stage as if ready to attack as guitarist Robin Finck and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen not only hit every note, but also added spot-on backing vocals.
By the middle of the set, the band decided to slow it down and play three instrumental tracks from the “Ghosts” album. Throwing a road block in the middle of what had been a high-energy show would normally seem like a bad idea, but the stunning visual display which enveloped the band easily held the crowd’s attention. Using three different digital screens, the band appeared to be playing at first in a desert (similar to the one seen on the cover of “Ghosts”), then in swamp, and then in a driving rain storm. After playing an unplugged version of “Piggy” and “The Greater Good,” Reznor seemingly “erased” a blue screen that had blocked the stage using the beam of a flashlight, and then the band burst into “Pinion and Wish,” once again ratcheting up the energy level.
From this point, the band would play seven more songs before leaving the stage. They closed the set with the trio of “Only,” “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole.” This was, in my opinion, the highlight of the show, especially the closer, which emerged as the band’s first hit nearly 20 years ago and is still a vital live track today.
After leaving the stage for a short while, the band returned to play a five song encore featuring three “Year Zero” songs and highlighted by the somber “Hurt.” The band closed the show with “In This Twighlight” to an expected ovation from the crowd. Not being a die-hard fan of the band, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this show, but I certainly was. While more bands today may be more popular and sell more records, Nine Inch Nials have shown that, even after 20 years, they are still not only relevant, but one of the world’s top rock bands.
March of the Pigs
The Great Destroyer
The Greater Good
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole
The Good Soldier
In This Twilight