Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails played the AT&T Center on Nov. 5. The show was part of their “Tension 2013″ tour, promoting the “Hesitation Marks” album. The album release and tour follow a five-year hiatus by the band, after creator Trent Reznor stated, “It’s time to make NIN disappear for a while.” The album was released this August.
The “Hesitation Marks” album marked a return to a more organic sound from the band, comparable to “The Fragile” in its vocal style and tone. “Hesitation Marks” sounds less electronic sounding than the albums released prior to Nine Inch Nails’ hiatus, though it still makes use of sampling, drum machines and heavily distorted guitars. Trent Reznor privately wrote and recorded the music for much of its creation. Reznor notified fans of his writing in May 2013, and it was released several months later. It has been by fans and critics, with Rolling Stone ending their review of the album with, “[it fades] with clear, quiet strength and no hesitation.”
The concert began as many do, with the charged air created by hundreds of excited fans waiting to share in an experience with a band they love. The theater, originally filled with the drone of speech, gave way to quiet when the sounds of a synthesized loop came from behind the curtain. This continued until the band took the stage, shielded behind barriers, enveloped as they opened with “Copy of A.” Then, the barriers rose, releasing the fog across the crowd which allowed for the light show to be seen. The band then dialed back to play a heavily modified version of the song “Sanctified” from their 1989 debut album “Pretty Hate Machine.” Soon thereafter they played crowd favorite “March of the Pigs,” continuing into “Piggy.” Then came “All Time Low”””a song that is as subtly unsettling as it is catchy. The main hook, written by former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, draws the listener in. Their light show during “Disappointed” featured a stunning visual effect that made the band seem to disappear at points during the song, as well as created a sort of, “reverse shadow” effect that outlined the band members with light. The pairing of “The Frail” and “The Wretched” was recreated perfectly, with guitarist Robin Finck expressing a masterful control of guitar feedback and effects. The 15th song in the setlist was “Survivalism,” which again charged the theater charged”””I got my fist, I got my plan, I got survivalism.” The band closed with “Head Like A Hole.” After exiting the stage, the theatre went dark, and the crowd cheered for a long few moments, filling the theatre with hundreds of lights from lighters and cell phones. The band returned from backstage to play five encore songs, ending with the introspective closer to “The Downward Spiral, Hurt.”
The concert at the AT&T Center was an exceptional showcase of their entire discography. None could deny that the show was both musically and visually phenomenal””Reznor has come a long way from singing, covered in mud, at Woodstock in 1994. The show seemed to contradict itself at times, however, as this band makes use of the sounds of rusted machinery and revels in its ruin yet they recreated their music in a precise, machine-like fashion. In a way, I found myself both astounded by and distanced from the music. Yet I did not leave with a sense of loss””I appreciated their strength without hesitation, and the incredible energy they harnessed as artists sharing in an experience with their audience.