Nine Inch Nails at Comerica Theatre: September 2018 Show Coverage

Coverage By: Daisy Fromkin
Photos By: Adam Messler

A night with the master of the Cold, Dark and Infinite.

A more apropos tour name could not be found for the master of the dark places in humanity than Nine Inch Nails “Cold and Black and Infinite Tour.” You would be hard pressed to find a better three words to describe the brainchild of Trent Reznor.  Nine Inch Nails formed in 1988 and have moved through their love of hard industrial with lyrics about absence, sex, pain, god, death and relationships gone, well more sideways than downhill.

Reznors 1989 debut of Pretty Hate Machine broke genre with palatable influence of Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Clash and synthpop along with a solid Street punk gutter thrash that was unheard of prior to this break out album. He continued with “The Downward Spiral” that was famously recorded at the Tate house, scene of the Manson murders.

The last 30 years, 28 of them as a solo official member (Adding Atticus Ross in 2016) has not changed the 53 year old Reznor who still has a presence twice his stature and that no seemingly regulation all black attire can diminish. As dynamic a he is as performer in contrast with the bleakness that his world and the themes of this songs reflect just that, unflinchingly. Reznor still looks on top of his game and almost seemingly ageless with a demeanor I would describe as restless. Over the years Reznor had struggled with hard drugs and drinking until 1995 when David Bowie proposed a tour with Nine Inch Nails and he found a different way.

The incredible part to remember is how this man machine continues to stay relevant in so many areas, He has scored films and documentaries with Ross, worked as chief creative officer for Beats music and was consulted on what eventually became apple music. He attributes success with the willingness to put in the work.

The stage set up was an industrial barren wasteland, Kicking strait into the set with Pinion from the album Broken, Reznor took the stage and began his soliloquy of political anger, personal revelation and rage that form into a cumulative response from the audience, growing Reznor from 5’7 to 10 feet tall. The LED lights blast through the stage and swivel outwardly through the audience illuminating part of the crowd into an almost hyper detailed people scape. Small boxes flashing square lights akin to the fire you would create in Minecraft, dance wildly and all of this wrapped in a surrealist landscape of a fog machine, as if to ask the question is the world real or just illusion?  Strong flood lights illuminate the band in a play on shadows against the plain backdrop, without a name, tour or any design.  Creating an imaginary battle of creatures normally manned by children with flashlights on camping trips. He raged through WishHappiness in Slavery, Gave up, Physical, March of the pigs and at one point stopped to say “I played some old shit, now we are going to play some new shit”  Reznor powered hard and made his connection with the audience through angst and the heart of darkness that circles his lyrics, rather than witty banter. He delivered his music regardless of how long ago the song was created with the same energy and passion, never holding out the microphone do let the audience do the work on best known. Reznor owned every inch of his rage, pain and frustration, and then he was gone.

Final thoughts: Go see this show when it comes through your area.  Its well done and Reznor is on top of his game.

Best Comment (Guy sitting next to me): “Crap, I’ve read your articles, you always quote someone. I’d better watch what I say”

Best Comment Overheard (Older guy): “What type of lights are those! WOW!”

Songs to give a listen: Head like a Hole, I’m Afraid of Americans, Hurt.

Special thank you to Adam and Danielle for making it all happen.

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