Regardless of one’s stance on the audiophile release authenticity of the latest record by Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks launches a different kind of signal in the Trent Reznor headed catalog; one becoming with maturity.
A surface level scratching of the LP certainly bespeaks conflicts in aggression; what would a Nails song be without it? However, this ninth studio release has an aerodynamic elegance to it in a way of utilizing stripped electronics and sleek moving melodic-textures to explore more bare arrangements and using space as an instrument, rather than countless layers that have prompted themselves in earlier releases. Interestingly enough, the heavy use of drum machines throws Hesitation Marks in the same vein of Electronica as the band’s 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine, which, in a way, completes a full circle of growth and high expectations for the live show evolution that would seemingly come with it.
Tension 2013 landed itself near the heart of Oakland, near Forbes Ave at Petersen Events Center on October 8th, 2013. Mariqueen Maandig-Reznor adorably sent out an instagram celebrating an early Halloween somewhere amongst the area, while art director Rob Sheridan placed a gleefully dressed up cardboard Coors Light advertisement at center stage. Meanwhile, myself and Stacie (a good friend who introduced me to Nine Inch Nails years ago) strayed around blocks looking for coffee, smiling at the shenanigans; elated to feel the good spirits of our surroundings, as well as those involved in the show.
Inside, a melting pot of Halo 1: Down In It OGs, casual Closer fans, and post-1990′s audience members excitedly trickled into their respective general admission stances. Cross-generational Friends met at the front barriers as the lights dimmed for the opening band Explosions in the Sky. An ill-mannered “Don’t suck!” clumsily echoed from one impolite attendee’s unfiltered mouth, embarrassing the sound waves forced to bounce off the walls of the arena from the words produced by the lone spokesmen, but a becoming audience and sensible opening act silently dismissed the exclaim. Instead, the band splashed into the cinematic-alternative instrumental creations from their discography, flowing from one song to the next without much break; seamlessly interpolating songs into one another and maximizing their impression amongst the allotted stage time.
Of their six song set, “Let Me Back In” provided a specifically haunting live interpretation of the song, as the reverberated vocal samples of which thrive through the Take Care, Take Care, Take Care track were met with the same flowing room ambiance as the earlier heckler, only this time allowing the room to bounce serious artistic expression and guitar-positioned melodies throughout it. Only six songs deep in length, Explosions expressed an exuberance not so easily portrayed and created a mood so pure that the upcoming Prince Avalanche film in which they scored should prove to be an immense intense experience due to the backdrop of in the band’s Texas based talent.
Gawking at the curtained stage solidified an anticipation more severe than the wait after Street Sweeper Social Club’s opening performance on the Wave Goodbye/NINJA tour co-headlined with Jane’s Addiction. Not that the concept of Wave was negative, but although it was filled with rarities and a minimal smoke & lights setup, the tour felt just as it was named; a simple wave goodbye, a temporary hiatus in touring for Reznor and crew.
This time, with full production in swing that have completely revamped the Nine Inch Nails festival tour earlier this year and an extended set list averaging about twenty-five songs per show, Tension 2013 seems to put the band back on track with the likes of previous groundbreaking The Lights in the Sky and With_Teeth creations. From the newest release, “Copy of A” began the show translated in a fashion that sticks true to the album version’s core, down to the lone two-kick drum notes in the middle of the song of which pumped the venue full of low end energy that the song could flourish upon.
Powering through the entire discography, basically avoiding With_Teeth, Year Zero, and The Slip save for one song from each of those respective records, Nine Inch Nails put on a powerful show, complete with visuals by that formed a conglomerate in demonstration of an evolution in one of the smartest, most innovative industrial rock bands that have ever walked the face of the Earth.
Of the touring members of Nine Inch Nails, even with the legendary Pino Palladino on bass (who has toured with the likes of The Who and Gary Numan), it is the former NIN-Festival-bassist turned guitar/keys player Josh Eustis of the brilliant Telefon Tel Aviv that specifically stands out as the talented newcomer amongst the bunch. Not only has he been one half of Tel Aviv before the unfortunate passing of Charles Cooper, but has remixed “Where is Everybody?” off The Fragile for its remix compilation entitled Things Falling Apart, as well as an unreleased remix of “Even Deeper” that can be found on remix.nin.com. What makes Eustis such a valuable player in Nine Inch Nails’ live orientation is how effortless he displays his multi-instrumental talent. For the most part, he is dormant on stage, however, the focus radiating off what he is playing and himself allows for one to stare in awe at how effortless he makes the intricacies look. By the time Josh breaks out the saxophone during “While I’m Still Here,” any skeptical reservations are tarnished; replaced with admiration and respect.
Along with Eustis and Palladino are unconventional backing singers Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer, whom give the band a Pink Floidian feel to several songs, mainly “Even Deeper,” where Fischer (who’s toured with The Rolling Stones) completely lets loose, recalling adlib and vocal additions akin to falling in line with the likes of “The Great Gig in the Sky”.
There’s no nostalgic tension here, no copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a previous shadow of a performer, but a noteworthy and continual step forward in the Nine Inch Nails legacy that’s continual growth only seems to grow better with age.
It’s also noteworthy that “The Day The World Went Away” made it’s Tension 2013 debut at this Pittsburgh, PA date. Tickets and additional tour information can be found at NIN.com