NIN – Tension 2013

Nine Inch Nails Tension 20132b06707f-5c7c-495b-9ae3-a005fdb6d18f

w/ Explosions in the Sky

Wolstein Center – Cleveland, OH

5 October 2013


After hearing the new Nine Inch Nails album Hesitation MarksI felt my excitement for the live show drop by a factor of about 43 and I began questioning the wisdom of buying my tickets so far in advance. It wasn’t until about halfway through the show that I remembered it wasn’t Pretty Hate Machine that made them famous so much as Lollapalooza ’91. While no one ever argues that Trent Reznor is a studio wizard, few people realize that he’s just as much of a genius when it comes to hiring live musicians to perform his tunes in a live setting.

I didn’t care much for the opening act, Explosions in the Sky. They were an experimental sort of psychedelic/garage instrumental band. Their songs were decent, but a little too spacey for my taste. I did notice on Sporify that they’ve done some soundtrack work, most noticeably for Friday Night Lights, and while I remember enjoying the music from that film I didn’t care for them as an opening act for NIN. I wasn’t the only one. The crowd was full of people groaning every time they began a new song. The most applause they received was when they finally took off their instruments and exited the stage.

And of course we had to wait a good half hour before Nine Inch Nails came out. But we forgot all about that once the lights went down and they took the stage.

IMG_20131005_213504_151It’s nice to see that my ticket money went to good use. The last time I saw Nails (Fragility 2.0 in 1999) they had an impressive light show, but the Tension 2013 tour puts that to shame. They began with the new single “Copy of a” and each member was illuminated by spotlights only a few feet over their heads. I was a little peeved as that obstructed my view, but it wasn’t long before the rigging began to move again. Not only was there a screen in the back to project images on, but throughout the show two other screens would descend and rise further downstage. There were a lot of lines and a few dashes moving back and forth and silhouettes and flames. I heard a few people bitching about the set list and backup singers, but I don’t think you can touch the light show. Well, unless you’re an epileptic. If you’re an epileptic I doubt you enjoy NIN live.

It should be noted that though I’ve seen NIN before the only returning members from that show were Trent Reznor and Guitarist Robin Fink. But I will say that everyone put on great performances. Ilan Rubin is a phenomenal drummer who not only nailed every beat, but also walked to a keyboard on the side of his drum riser to play the “doesn’t it make you feel better” piano lick in “March of the Pigs.” Josh Eustis proved himself an accomplished multi-instrumentalist by playing not only keyboards and guitar, but also the ehru, xylophone and saxophone. Pino Palladino is a great bass player, but he didn’t move around a lot, which provided an interesting foil to Reznor’s never-ending calisthenics.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the two backup singers, Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson. IMG_20131005_215439_813Sure, artists like Bob Seger, Leonard Cohen and Marilyn Manson use backups, but this was Nine Inch Nails. Nine Inch Nails don’t need back up singers; what kind of heresy was this? (And how would these ladies have responded had they been asked to perform the song “Heresy”?) But they captured both my HAS bones and my heart with their voices. Their contributions helped to make songs like “The Wretched,” “Into the Void” and “All Time Low” fresh and exciting. I’m not sure which of them contributed the “Great Gig in the Sky” type wails to the end of “Even Deeper,” but I thought that was very, very cool. And I was pleasantly surprised when the fog machine went into overdrive as Alessandro Cortini played “A Warm Place.” That’s one of the last songs I was expecting to hear on this tour, but it provided a nice segue while the stage was stripped of unnecessary instruments for the band to play the rockers “Wish,” “Burn,” “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole.”

It took a bit of effort to get the band back out for their encore, but they came. That was the most awkward portion of the show. I understand the screaming, yelling and “YYYEEEAAAHHH!” of the audience for the big rock songs, I engage in it myself, but when Trent Reznor is singing “Hurt” it’s more appropriate to just shut the hell up.

While I would have liked to have heard more songs from With Teeth and Broken I can’t bitch too much about the set because with that much material to choose from there’s no way you can please everyone (I know my buddy Patrick would have liked more from Year Zero) Even the songs I didn’t care much for from Hesitation Marks sounded great live and it was an awesome show. The best thing about seeing Nine Inch Nails live is that it’s a different show every tour. I would highly recommend checking them out.

I couldn’t find any videos from the show I was at, but here’s one from the previous night.


Here’s a set list I stole from Wikipedia. It’s pretty complete to the best of my knowledge although I do remember hearing “The Frail/The Wretched” and “Into the Void,” and I’m not sure of the titles for a lot of the songs from Year Zero or Hesitation Marks.

  1. Copy of A
  2. “1,000,000”
  3. “Terrible Lie”
  4. March of the Pigs
  5. Piggy
  6. “All Time Low”
  7. “Disappoined”
  8. Came Back Haunted
  9. “Find My Way”
  10. “Satellite”
  11. Survivalism
  12. “Running”
  13. “A Warm Place”
  14. “Somewhat Damaged”
  15. Wish
  16. Burn
  17. The Hand That Feeds
  18. Head Like a Hole
1. “Even Deeper”
2. “In This Twilight”
3. “While I’m Still Here”
4. “Black Noise”
5. “Hurt

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