It’s no question that Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s most well known project, has been considered a live band worth watching for many years. Their supposedly last tour, released on dvd and sent off with an intense light show, created a book end that would solidify the end of the Halos. It was unfortunate because some of us will have never seen what was surely one of the best touring groups of our time. With the announcement of Nine Inch Nails’ return, which came after Reznor’s other projects (How To Destroy Angels and his award winning soundtracks with Atticus Ross), we were all ecstatic. Yes, a new album was noteworthy as well (Hesitation Marks was a nice release but with one of my favorite songs of last year “Various Methods of Escape”), but the best news was that Nine Inch Nails were to be touring again. With a clear mind, a renewed passion and a massive return, Nine Inch Nails were good before, but what they were to bring to the table this time around was to be a huge surprise.
With the opening song “Copy Of A”, Reznor walked on stage with a bright light beside him and a large white sheet behind him. As the song progressed, more band members came onto the stage and the song got louder. As the song climaxed, the bands’ shadows cascaded the entire stage looming over us. That’s when we knew that they weren’t only going to give us a great visual show, but they were going to go even beyond their usual sets. WIth the usual digital brilliance they have at their shows, they also incorporated a large amount of actual lighting into their show, and some of the best I’ve ever seen at that. WIth each new song, the set up got more complicated. WIth the silhouettes of the band members being disintegrated into oblivion, the white sheet falling a quarter of the way into the set to reveal blazingly hot lights and Reznor’s face being swallowed alive during Closer, this was a show that was aware of the band’s reputation as a live act. They took what they were known for and expanded on it. The digital screens of the show were portable and would encase band members into boxes, create large landscapes behind the band, work as an armored barricade that would fan out and more; All while having glitchy and creepy imagery throughout the show.
If Reznor relied on just visuals, Nine Inch Nails would be a treat live. Being one of the best showmen I have ever seen, equipped with a voice that still hits every note required of him, he and his band successfully turn their set into an incredible one. The sound was crystal clear but caked in layers. They played many crowd favorites including Closer, Only, Head Like a Hole and more but a few surprises were tossed in (Eraser was an absolute gem live and out of left field. Then there was The Slip’s 1’000’000 that had a light show that could give even an android a seizure). The band left the stage with the band’s reversible logo on the screens. They returned for a single song encore: Hurt. One song was enough. They came to rock all of Toronto, but their final song was one with a message. The screens showed many visuals behind the haunting track, with metaphors (snakes and an eyebrow zoomed in on) and literal images (prisoners of war being shot, houses being bombed) creating a meaning of the song outside of The Downward Spiral’s concept. Johnny Cash made Hurt a swan song that talked about the mistakes he made in his life; We forgave him (even though he didn’t affect most of us at all). Reznor now sees the song as one that unites all of us and our sins. He reminds us that we often waste our potential. Hurt closing the show, somehow being the best song of a night of perfection, reminded us that a clean and healthy Trent Reznor is a story of complete realization that we all can be influenced by.