When Tension Reaches the Surface

Earlier this year when Trent Reznor announced the return of Nine Inch Nails I thought about the embodiment of a lineup that consisted of six people instead of the typical five piece act. The addition of an extra person could drastically change the dynamics of the show and I was excited by that potential. Shortly after the announcement bass player Eric Avery departed citing the overwhelming circumstances of having been on the road extensively leading up to the project. I was surprised to read that his replacement would be Robin Finck, the lead guitarist who has consistently been part of the lineup since 1994, minus the With Teeth Tour. With two lead guitar players in the group I saw the departure of Adrian Belew coming before it was revealed. To my dismay Josh Eustis was reassigned to the position of the rhythm guy switching between bass, guitar, and keyboard duties as Nine Inch Nails kicked off their summer festival run as a five piece act.

A full arena tour was scheduled to follow the festival shows with a stop in Cleveland on October 5th. Going back to school I’ve had to cut my hours at work, and couldn’t afford to go. The week of the show my girlfriend decided to snag a couple of tickets as an early birthday present for me. Thank you, Lydia! You’re the best.

With the Cleveland show being one of the early stops on the Tension 2013 North American Tour it came as a shock to me that the lineup would again be revamped. The addition of bass player Pino Palladino who played on a good number of tracks on the new album Hesitation Marks freed up Josh Eustis to focus on other aspects of the show, and solidified the act as a six piece. The stars aligned as I got exactly what I wanted. The icing on the cake came in the form of Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer whose soulful backup singing was something new for NIN and a welcome addition.

From the moment the band took the stage it was a roller coaster ride in the exercise of emotional expression. The full sound of having a live bass player on every song eliminated the majority of backing bass tracks for the set minus the opening song, Copy of A. Palladino’s mastery of the instrument enabled a style and groove from NIN that I hadn’t heard before. From there the band fleshed out a good portion of the new album collected with the back catalog that hit every album except for the instrumental Ghosts Vol. I-IV. Even though Ilan Rubin was the drummer during the 2009 Wave Goodbye Tour, it was my first time seeing him with the band. His drumming brought forth a chaotic interpretation of the beats accompanied with wild fills that were nailed with such precision that I can finally admit he is a suitable replacement for Josh Freese. Rubin also played the piano parts on March of the Pigs and Find My Way. The other new addition, Josh Eustis switched between guitar, synthesizers, hand percussion, and even broke out the sax on While I’m Still Here. With this being my seventh time seeing Nine Inch Nails in a live setting, the most consistent member besides Reznor has been Alessandro Cortini, the synthesizer extraordinaire who used to serve up backing guitars switch out the guitars for auxiliary percussion on a number of songs. Finck’s showmanship was revealed through his ability to move while playing solos on The Wretched and Burn. Reznor still has the ability to lead a crowd through the emotions of songs that can go from the soothing texture of A Warm Place straight into the destructive rage of Somewhat Damaged. In surprising news no instruments were harmed in the making of last night’s show, and Closer was omitted from the set list (which I didn’t mind as I’ve seen them perform that song on six other occasions). The full sound of the band when accompanied by Gibson and Fischer brought a level of soul and depth that some may have found to be lacking in the mechanical hum of a typical NIN show of previous times. What a refreshing revamp of the band and sound!

While the selections of the back catalog always make for an interesting experience the new material stood out most to me, as I’ve familiarized myself with the album over the past month and some change. The wall of sound at the ends of Disappointed, Find My Way, and Black Noise consisted of a trace like quality that reminds one of peace. The Nine Inch Nails live experience is unlike any other concert event going on right now, and I saw Gwar earlier this week.



Set List

  • Copy of A
  • 1,000,000
  • Terrible Lie
  • March of the Pigs
  • Piggy
  • All Time Low
  • Disappointed
  • Came Back Haunted
  • Find My Way
  • The Frail
  • The Wretched
  • Into the Void
  • Survivalism
  • Running
  • A Warm Place
  • Somewhat Damaged
  • Wish
  • Burn
  • The Hand that Feeds
  • Head Like a Hole


  • Even Deeper
  • In This Twilight
  • While I’m Still Here/Black Noise
  • Hurt