The Nine Inch Nails concert at The Rose Garden started like many hard rock/industrial concerts – with a ton of smoke and bright lights. The sea of strobes lit the Rose Garden in bursts of blinding lights as Nine Inch Nails belted out their first three songs in a full on sonic assault.
Then it all changed. The stage went dark and the band moved to the front of the stage backed by a complex weaving of LCD lights and screens. At that point the show wasn't just about the music anymore. Reznor and company danced and moved in conjunction with a sea of light and color in something akin to a post modern living digital painting.
The rich tapestry of light and sound constantly evolved through out the show, taking the audience on a visual trip that probably could only have otherwise been achieved under the influence of some hallucinatory drug.
With this amazing feast of the senses, Nine Inch Nails moved through their large breadth of music touching on almost every album and digital release. Bouncing around their musical time line, the band made each song sound as if it were new and fresh.
The middle of the show was a quiet contemplative series of songs from NIN's "Ghosts" release, which felt like it came from an entirely separate universe than the band's opening numbers. The Ghosts block was surreal, meditative and beautiful.
Every song thereafter had some sort of amazing visual surprise attached. On one Reznor moved around the stage interacting with a blanked of digital static that covered the stage, on another digital noise danced on the floor like snow and then flew to the heavens. (No description of these visuals could ever do them justice although I tried to capture the NIN Portland experience on Twitter).
The final lap of the concert returned to the bright lights and strobe of the beginning, punctuating the complete journey the band had taken the audience through the show. Coming back for an encore Reznor did a rendition of "Hurt" which felt as fresh and emotionally immediate as ever.
Reznor and NIN have taken a very different road musically. They've constantly foiled convention and defied confinement within the traditional music industry. Now on tour they've literally reinvented the concert going experience with an auditory and visual feast like none I've ever seen. There's no way you can experience this Nine Inch Nails experience any other way than running out and seeing them live, no photo, youtube video, DVD or Blu-Ray of this show will ever have the impact of the unmediated experience. That experience makes Nine Inch Nails one of the preeminent bands to see live perhaps now even rivaling U2.
Here are some photos of the concert (photos by David Lawrence)
More info on NIN in Portland:
- Wired Article on NIN Light Show
- Examiner.com Preview of NIN Portland Show
- NIN Free Download of The Slip