Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Now is the appropriate time to headbang.

I've had a few bands that I've loved a long time. Many were because my dad listened to them quite a bit: Pink Floyd, the Doors, Dire Straits, etc. Once I got to college, I got exposed to something new: "alternative" music, which turned me on to bands like Alice In Chains, Tool and others.

One of my favorites from this time period was Nine Inch Nails. The sound was raw, the lyrics were full of emotion, and there was a wonderfully layered effect to the sound. Trent Reznor, the heart of the band, takes advantage of live instruments, synthesizers and his own powerful voice to create music that builds on itself, adding rhythms to each other, often building up the complexity of the song as it goes along. It's really evident in their big hit "Closer" as it approaches the end.

So, when my partner told me he got a notice from Rupp Arena that NIN was coming to Lexington, and were offering special $20 preorder tickets, I snapped them up. The seats weren't the best, but for $20 who was I to argue?

I have never seen so many people wearing black in my life. n.n

The venue didn't sell out, but it was pretty well packed. The folks next to us were cool, and we chatted with them a bit before the show. The opening act was a band out of Ohio called White William. Three college guys, one on guitar, one on a very small drum set and one on synth/vocals.

These guys sucked. I hate to say it, but good lord this sounded like a self-absorbed college band. They used reverb and echo effects for their entire set. The guy on vocals and synth was the worst offender, as there wasn't a single song where he wasn't using both effects on his singing. Plus, they apparently used every damn effects key on the synth. The guitarist kept to the really high notes and was headbanging. My partner commented that "this is not the appropriate time to headbang," because the music really wasn't heavy; rather, I can best describe it as pop-synth-crap. The drummer didn't get to do anything interesting for most of the set. The worst part is, the band didn't seem to have any enthusiasm. When the singer talked to the audience between songs, he was flat and emotionless. I'm guessing he wrote the lyrics to their song because the words were just as flat and trite. Well, what I could hear of them. Did I mention the whole set was badly over-amplified?

It's telling when the lead singer says, "This is going to be our last song," and the crowd starts cheering. o.o

That said, their last song almost didn't suck. If the lead singer had turned off his damn echo & reverb, used a few less effects, and the outro hadn't been three times too long, it would've been a decent electronica piece.

Following that disappointment, the lights came back up and we sat for about 45 mins while roadies set up equipment for the headlining act. We chatted with folks about the opener, and they all agreed it wasn't good. My partner thinks that NIN must be picking up local acts for their openers, rather than bringing an opener on tour. After the concert, I thought it would've been much more appropriate to track down the guys from Days of the New, as they were a Louisville band originally, had talent, and were at least an alternative band that would've fit the sound of an opener for NIN somewhat.

Finally, we got to the main act. And, damn, Trent Reznor knows how to put on a show! This is billed as the "Lights in the Sky" tour, and the name shows. There was a fantastic amount of lighting effects, and several curtain effects that were just dazzling. For one song, a curtain came down in front of the stage showing TV static. And at certain points during the song, Reznor would step up close to the curtain and the static would clear just around him for a few moments. He'd step back and the static would fill in, he'd come close to the curtain and it'd clear, he'd run across the stage and the static would clear as he moved across, filling in behind him again.

At one point after a song, a block of 64 hollow squares appeared on the screen, stacked in a pair of 16x2 grids. Reznor walked up in front of the curtain screen and a pair of white squares started tracking across the grid. He'd touch one of the hollow squares, which would fill in red and, when the white trackers crossed the red square, a snare hit was played. He started filling in the squares in the right pattern to begin the song "Echoplex" off the album The Slip. Once the main pattern was started the band began playing and he started singing the song. It was a great bit to watch, if kinda hard to explain. (You can download The Slip for free on the official site, linked.)

Edit: Found a YouTube video that shows it off well!

Most of the music was off The Slip, but he also played the band's most popular songs, plus some stuff off Ghosts I-IV. (You can download Ghosts I for free on the official site, linked.)

I really hope they put out a concert DVD of this performance, as some of it needs to be seen to be believed. It was just a fantastic show. The band was really into it, Reznor knew just how to play the crowd, and the crowd was singing along to most of the songs. Overall, it was a fantastic show to attend.

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