That would’ve been the first time I ever saw NIN if I hadn’t done the dumbest move of my entire adult life. I had another miss when NIN played the Gorge Amphitheater in 2009, the day before I moved back to Portland.
That was supposed to be NIN’s final tour, the NINJA/Wave Goodbye Tour with Jane’s Addiction. Yeah. I almost cried when I found that out. I remember feeling the wind getting knocked out of me when my friend told me over the phone. I physically buckled over for a moment.
But I’m glad Tension 2013 was my first NIN show. It’s music from the future, for the future.
I’m convinced the NIN crew consists of not only top-notch musicians and artists, but cutting-edge experimental scientists tinkering with time machines. It was like they teleported from 2525 just to perform this tour.
Reznor resurrected NIN with the funky, futuristic sample-based album, Hesitation Marks, earlier this year. Listening to it left me anxious to see him in action. My only regret is not splurging for a closer seat.
From far away, during the first few songs it looked like the band was floating atop a gaseous planet that was emitting rainbow vapor. It was so surreal that even Rob Sheridan’s Tumblr photos don’t do it justice—and his photos are choice (see them here).
“Creative credit for this production is shared with Trent Reznor, Roy Bennett, Paul Guthrie, Moment Factory, Brian Jenkins, Jason Baeri, Andrew Jerez, Loren Barton and Morgan Brown, among others—and of course the massive and amazing crew that makes it actually happen every night,” Sheridan stated on his Tumblr page.
Sheridan is the art director for both NIN and Reznor’s project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig, How To Destroy Angels, named after one of Coil’s ambient albums.
The 3D projections and laser lights made the show more of an all-encompassing audio-visual experience. It was like a real-life holographic universe.
Reznor said in a recent interview with The Fader that he likes the idea of “trying to push forward into new things,” and it shows. That’s why I felt like a wormhole spit me out of a time warp when the show was over.
When I heard “The Wretched” playing, my regret about not going to LA hardened in my throat and my eyes burned with self-contempt. “Now you know this is what it feels like.” Yeah, I do. So I texted my friend and apologized again, maybe for the hundredth time, seven years later.
And that’s what NIN does—it’s not subhuman beer rock that makes you scrape your knuckles on the dance floor; it’s a funhouse mirror reflecting back your most lamented regrets, your hyperpersonal arcana of pain, your own “empire of dirt.”
If you weren’t at the Moda Center concert on Nov. 18, here are some clips of “Somewhat Damaged,” “Wish,” “The Wretched,” and my personal favorite, “Even Deeper.” Enjoy!