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Nine Inch Nails At The Staples Center: Review

Daniella Lollie |
November 11, 2013 | 4:33 p.m. PST


The Tension tour packs the same punch as NIN tours in the past. (nicoleltate/Instagram)
The Tension tour packs the same punch as NIN tours in the past. (nicoleltate/Instagram)
Touring for their first album since 2009, Nine Inch Nails played a hometown show on Friday November 8 at Staples Center to a crowd who was eager for the return of frontman Trent Reznor, who for the past few years, has been busy scoring David Fincher films, winning an Oscar, and touring and recording with his other band How to Destroy Angels.

It was obvious from the opening song, “Copy of A” from the new album “Hesitation Marks,” that as usual this tour, called Tension, would be stacked with the glitch art visuals, practically seizure-inducing light shows and creepy imagery that Reznor is notorious for.

It also confirmed that he is still a musical perfectionist. Throughout the night, no matter how layered the songs became, every nuance could be heard, even with the lacking acoustics at Staples Center. No matter how chaotic the arrangement seemed, everything was always expertly controlled. Reznor is nothing if not deliberate, and his new eight-piece line-up is the best incarnation of the band yet.

Bassist Pino Palladino, whose striking resemblance to South Park’s Mr. Mackey has not gone unnoticed by fans, had some NIN worshippers worried because he’s so much more laid back than previous touring members.

No thrashing? No problem. This guy jams hard ‘mmkay? He came with insane technical precision and a more groove oriented style that is often absent from the band’s live performances. Palladino is a diamond in the pocket. Surrounded by dirty wailing guitars, an unyielding onslaught of industrial effects and ethereal collages of sound, you could always hear him adding color to what would usually be steady fare on that instrument.

Reznor has never been shy about exploring the dancier side of rock, but ever since their EP "Broken" came out in 1992, NIN has been predominantly labelled an industrial hard rock band by mainstream audiences.

Although classic headbanger tracks like “Wish” and “March of the Pigs” more than delivered when it comes to this description, songs like “All Time Low,” “Satellite,” and “The Big Come Down” were a great introduction to the side of NIN that is all funk.

Reznor’s version of upbeat always comes with melancholy undertones, some sort of dark descent and subsequent electronic madness but that didn’t stop the crowd from getting down.

For the first time two female backup vocalists were chosen for the line up. Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson are both R&B singers whose addition could not be more welcome. Reznor is always great on vocals with his high energy snarling, kick ass screams and an ability to ground more mellow songs with emotion and clarity, but there have always been great moments on his recordings which could not be replicated live because of his limitations as a singer.

The more complex harmonies were performed brilliantly by the duo, who were set loose on more atmospheric tracks like “Even Deeper.” Their dynamic added another layer of mythology to the songs, giving rise and release to the tension which this tour is so appropriately named after.

Reznor thanked the enamored LA crowd towards the end of the show and said that he was “mind blown” by the fact that he could fill Staples in 2013. However, given the band’s performance and the value of the production, what would really be mind blowing was if he couldn’t.

Read more of NT's show reviews here.

Reach Contributor Daniella Lollie here.



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