Nine Inch Nails @ TD Garden 10.11.13

by Mike Doub (Psychology), published November 13th 2013

photos by Ben Stas (Journalism/English)

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Let me start off with some embarrassing background – I used to adore Nine Inch Nails, as only a 14 year-old boy could. This was before I viewed music with a critical lens, and before I realized that not every album by a favorite artist is necessarily perfect. A bit of time has passed since then, and I like a few more bands now. But I still have a soft spot for Nine Inch Nails, my first favorite band and one of the few I haven’t disavowed from those awkward middle school years. It’s not hyperbole when I say that seeing Nine Inch Nails at TD Garden was the realization of an off-and-on six year dream.

Before I could see my loser kid dreams come true though, Godspeed You! Black Emperor took the stage. The Canadian post-rock outfit, who mounted a comeback with 2012’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, is an odd match for Nine Inch Nails. They’re not typically an arena band, and all of their songs are challengingly lengthy instrumental compositions far removed from the typical 4-minute verse-chorus song structure. Despite that, the group’s epic crescendos worked well at TD Garden. The dimmed lighting and vastness of the venue gave the songs a little extra room to instill fear and unease, and the paranoid photograph backdrop played into that mood too. Godspeed’s set consisted of one new song, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it bodes well for their future. They’ve been just as solid since their return as they were before they left, and their opening slot that night was no exception.

Then, Nine Inch Nails. The industrial-rock titans opened their set with the textured “Copy of A,” a cut off of their first new album in five years, Hesitation Marks. The show wasn’t lacking for songs from that album, perhaps to a fault, but Nine Inch Nails paid tribute to each of their albums at least once. Downward Spiral tracks like “March of the Pigs” and “Piggy” surfaced early on, and received some of the night’s loudest cheers. Later, the first set ended with early single “Head Like a Hole,” which did receive the night’s loudest cheers.

There was a lot to like in between. “The Hand That Feeds,” from 2005’s With Teeth, became a crowd sing-a-long, and “The Wretched,” a cut from The Fragile, made good use of the trio of auxiliary singers accompanying the band on this tour. One could argue that singer/only-real-band-member Trent Reznor’s rock n’ roll posturing isn’t as convincing as it used to be now that he’s pushing 50, and I’d probably agree with that fictional fellow. But while they’re in their 25th year as a band, Nine Inch Nails managed to look both forward and back at TD Garden that night, and did neither their new material nor old a disservice. Anyway, all of my qualms about the show became moot when the band pulled out the legendary “Hurt” as a closer. To say that 14 year-old Mike would have been floored is the highest compliment I can give.

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