Nine Inch Nails (12/7/2008)
I've never been a diehard Nine Inch Nails fan, but have listened to them on and off since high school. I've never seen frontman Trent Reznor or his music as misogynistic; in fact, "Closer" is one of my all-time favorite songs. And to be fair, the only semi-nude images on visual display in this show were equal opportunity, male and female.
Whatever else you want to say about them, NIN gave fans in Portland, Oregon their money's worth. Playing for more than two hours—with a five-song encore—we were treated to old favorites like "Head Like a Hole" and "Closer," taking us back to a time where materialism was (briefly) very un-hip. Reznor's performance of tracks from NIN's more recent albums (With Teeth, Year Zero, and The Slip) such as "The Collector," "The Hand That Feeds," and others, were equally juiced.
Reznor, who never uses the same band for more than one tour, selected a very talented ensemble for this one; his musicians, dressed to match him in his trademark black muscle T-shirt and jeans, used an unusual variety of instruments that included the lap steel (on "All the Love in the World"), banjo, and cello. While I was warned ahead of time by a longtime fan to bring earplugs, the sound quality at Portland's Rose Garden Arena was so perfectly engineered that they weren't necessary. An amazing light show added to the performance. The one exception was an extended version of "A Warm Place," which, coupled with the serene lily pond setting, nearly put me to sleep.
The only disappointment—in addition to getting charged $5.75 for a Diet Coke—was NIN's opening act, The Bug. This quasi-reggae singer, paired with loud (versus good) electronica, seemed to do little more than gyrate her hips while repeating the words "crazy motherfuckers" most of the time she was on stage. Tiring, to say the least.