Bow Down Before the One You Serve: NIN at the Idaho Center

This article was originally published in online magazine Pointless Banter on June 1, 2006.

Nine Inch Nails, 2006

Last Sunday night, I received a phone call from a friend of mine at around 4:30 in the afternoon. She said that she had procured for us two free tickets to that evening’s Nine Inch Nails show, on their “With Teeth” tour. My answer was something along the lines of “Are you fucking KIDDING me? Hells yeah!” So I got all tarted up and ventured out to the Idaho Center. The show, featuring openers TV On The Radio and Bauhaus had been sold out within two weeks of tickets going on sale, so last-minute tickets were coveted indeed. I must confess that I have long been a Nine Inch Nails fan. They had me in 1989 with “Pretty Hate Machine”, to say nothing of “The Downward Spiral.” We missed TV On The Radio as we were in the beer garden, catching up with old friends, and caught the last bit of Bauhaus’ set, which was quite good. And then? Then, it was time for Nine Inch Nails.

I was particularly interested to see this show because I’m a fan of the drummer who is currently touring with them, Josh Freese (The Vandals, A Perfect Circle.) Nine Inch Nails’ regular drummer, Jerome Dillon, apparently has some health problems. Chris Vrenna hasn’t toured as NIN’s drummer since the Outside tour. Other than Trent Reznor, the only constant member of the band, NIN changes backing lineups rather frequently. The show was jammed and the crowd was panting with anticipation. Before the lights even went down, NIN ripped into their first song, and it was on.

The stage was surrounded for much of the show by a chain-link LED cage, which they flashed mirrors of the light show on the screen behind the show. It was alternately lifted and lowered, and Trent Reznor stalked around the stage like a man unhinged. His stage presence is nothing if not hypnotic, and I was absolutely mesmerized as I danced, sweated, screamed, and felt that I was in the presence of true stage legends. I went in wanting to hear only a few songs from their impressive catalog: March of the Pigs, Closer, Hurt, and Head Like A Hole. They played them all.

After the first set, Trent expressed his incredulity at the sheer magnitude of the crowd (NIN had never been to the Gem State before), and thanked everyone for being there. “I don’t think we’ve ever been here before. Sorry for that! This is incredible.” It was time for the first encore, and a lone spotlight illuminated the stage as Trent Reznor took the keyboard by himself, and started into the first haunting strains of “Hurt.” I sobbed.

The evening ended with “Head Like A Hole”, and thousands of sweaty kids pumping their fists in the air, screaming in unison “Head like a hole, black as your soul, I’d rather die, than give you control!” It was a thing of beauty, my friends. I pumped my fists with aplomb, tears streaming through my grin. The last thing we saw before the lights came up was the NIN logo on the massive LED cage. The last thing we heard was the last guitar fading out as the crowd roared.

Nine Inch Nails has teeth, indeed.

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