Nine Inch Nails stun a capacity crowd at Target Center, 11/25/08


Tuesday night's Nine Inch Nails show at the Target Center was a run-on sentence of the most elegant composition. It was full of multiple clauses and digressions, ornamented by all the pretty verbs that can hang a crowd of thousands agape and breathless for three long hours.

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Slideshow: Nine Inch Nails at Target Center, 11/25/08

Boris, noise metal prodigies of the lowest RPM, opened the show, beset by enormous LED monitors that backlit their droning take on industrial metal. As musically oppressive as a funeral dirge, their pensive shoe-gazing and statuesque performance, which was as overwhelming in the Target Center PA as a tsunami at its highest crest, seemed mildly out of place in such an opulent venue, and one would certainly be wise to see them this Friday at the Triple Rock, where the finery of their music won't be lost in the cavernous echo chamber of a basketball arena. Still, they were received well, and kept the floor crowded, a hard feat for an opening act at such a marquee show.

What began with Nine Inch Nails' opening song, a track off his label-less release The Slip, was a marathon performance, extended an extra mile or so to pacify any lingering resentment from Reznor's cancellation earlier this month. Beginning in all the right places, with a first act laden with hits from his Interscope antiquity like "March Of The Pigs," "Closer," and "La Mer," a stirring piano prelude from his double-disc masterpiece The Fragile, Reznor commanded the stage with all requisite menace and contempt for himself -- and the crowd, his gear, and his own music for that matter.

Marvel as Reznor sends a mic stand spiraling over his head behind him, to crash recklessly against his own coffined keyboards! It's an act to be sure, but one of uncommon recklessness in a show with such immense resources. During an enthralling halftime break, a stage-wide LED curtain descended behind Reznor and his bandmates, leaving them to perform a pair of instrumental tracks off his four disc opus Ghosts at the outermost promontory of the Target Center stage, brilliantly illuminated by countless pixels of blinding, sodium white.

Reznor and his band, which included long-time collaborator Robin Finck on guitar, entered the third act in a visual production of unrivaled eccentricity and beauty. The stage, partitioned by a trio of LED curtains, became a digital kaleidoscope, a multi-chambered cell of light and depth in which Nine Inch Nails spent forty five minutes performing instrumental droners, as expansive and illusory as the broadcasts that surrounded them. A pounding rainstorm obscured them from the front-- a smoky bog lay behind them. A shattering of glass, the ocular warble of a VHS tape untracked, smoke that enveloped and often obscured the band entirely, a post-nuclear cityscape erupting in impotent explosions-- the effects were carefully chosen and expertly executed, and for much of the set, Nine Inch Nails nearly vanished from the stage entirely.

It was a welcoming and impressive maneuver for Reznor, who, as he ages, seems increasingly willing to dodge the limelight, instead magnanimously deflecting it upon his band and his music and, as is the case on this tour, cadres of deserving touring partners. Too often, a stunning light display can simply be an obfuscation of the inherent buzz kills that come bridled with a show so vast and impersonal. But the visuals suited Reznor's music to a T, heightening the sonic intimacy of his performance. Even if Reznor's sentiments, which
lyrically amount to little more than existential whining, haven't grown up as much as his fans, there can be no denial that Reznor is an artist of the very highest caliber. This tour only further legitimizes his reputation as a cunning businessman, a taker of immense musical and performative risks, and one hell of a rock star.


Letting You
March of the Pigs
Head Down
The Frail (With "La Mer" tease)
The Wretched
Closer (With "The Only Time" bridge)
Gave Up
The Warning
The Great Destroyer
5 Ghosts I
17 Ghosts II
19 Ghosts III
The Greater Good
Terrible Lie
The Big Come Down
31 Ghosts IV
Down in It
Head Like a Hole

The Good Soldier
In This Twilight