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Nine Inch Nails light up the Air Canada Centre

Posted by Roger Cullman / October 6, 2013

Nine Inch Nails TorontoNine Inch Nails returned to Toronto Friday night for a light show extravaganza at the Air Canada Centre. The last time I saw Trent Reznor was just over four years ago when Nine Inch Nails toured with Jane's Addiction.

Nine Inch Nails LiveThe set kicked off with "Copy of A" off Nine Inch Nails' newest album, Hesitation Marks. And, a few songs later, "Terrible Lie" had many in the crowd dancing along, myself included.

Nine Inch Nails Air Canada CentreShortly thereafter, a fence-like structure was lowered onto the stage that at first looked like a barrier between the band and its fans. But a few songs in, some complex lighting system projected an image of a huge rotating cube, making the band appear trapped inside, bathed in smoke and their own beautiful cacophony.

Nine Inch Nails ConcertNiN was largely reliant on a whiz-bang light show to sustain the attention span of its audience through the 2-hour show. Which is fine, considering it's a stadium show and all. But the charm wore off pretty quick and I was left waiting to hear more familiar tunes from the Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral era.

Nine Inch Nails TorontoI can understand why Reznor and his band didn't want to create a Downward Spiral to hell. But this was not the setlist I'd hoped for.

It was nice, however, to hear a couple of soulful female backup singers add a little flare to Nine Inch Nails' songs. And the band featured a tight rhythm section, bolstered by Pino Palladino on bass and a drummer — Ilan Rubin — that would give The Muppets' Animal a run for his money.

Nine Inch Nails LiveWhen "Head Like A Hole" came on to close the set, blinding streams of light shot out from the stage in every direction, as if to signify a grande finale. I had to look away to preserve what parts of my retinas I had left after watching the seizure-inducing light show for the better part of the night — though it was pretty cool to see a massive NiN logo above the stage at the song's end.

The show ended with "Hurt," which began with a dark stage, save for lights on just the two guitars, bass and Reznor. A scrim came up as the drums kicked in, revealing the rest of the band.

Nine Inch Nails LiveA projected black-and-white video montage on the back of the stage was something of a confusing counter-narrative to the song's lyrics, which were dutifully sung along to by many adoring fans. And when it was all over, the crowd was left awash in more bright lights.

Photos by Roger Cullman Photography.



Khristopher / October 7, 2013 at 03:30 am
Crappy review of one of the best shows of my life. I think a lot of people weren't happy that more older classics weren't part of the setlist. Even usual staple "Closer" was not included! However, NIN has evolved and fans listening habits should as well. Trent seems not interested in appeasing to people, but only making quality music. You're either along for the ride, or you're not. I am.
Collin replying to a comment from Khristopher / October 7, 2013 at 09:17 am
Exactly everything Khristopher said.

This is a tour to support their latest album, it was a fan's favorite tour.

As much as I would like to hear them play every song from Pretty Hate Machine, Broken, The Downard Spiral & The Fragile back to back non-stop, this is not what this tour is about.

In order for an artist to evolve and continue to create music that doesn't suck, they need to break out of their mould. If you want a series of "old hits", go to a Nickleback concert and every song sounds the same from their first hit to their latest.
Simon replying to a comment from Khristopher / October 7, 2013 at 10:31 am
100% backing Khristopher on this one!

NIN did an amazing set playing a wide variety of songs off all their albums, which most fans can agree are all pretty damned good. This wasn't a showcase of strictly radio hits, this was a show that displayed the wide variety of music Trent & Co can put out.

And of course you haven't seen them for years. Nobody has! They've been on hiatus and this was a pretty fantastic return to the stage. NIN are known for putting on a complete spectacle, combining creative visuals that compliment their music in ways never before done by other bands.
Kent P / October 7, 2013 at 11:36 am
Yeah, that Krristopher has it right. Had to be one of the best shows I've ever seen.
Jeff / October 7, 2013 at 02:15 pm
I've been seeing NIN live for 20 years and this show blew me away. It was innovative, exciting, classy, edgy, I could go on. Many sings were re composed to work within the framework of this really cool concept. The crowd, and myself were often just standing there in awe during a few moments of the show. Visually it exceeded Muse and Depeche Mode shows I've seen over the year. That's saying a lot. It was a music and visual masterpiece bar none. I use Blog to for guidance of what to do in Toronto, but I'm so tired of seeing horrible reviews of bands I love who put on amazing shows get slagged by some chartreuse pant wearing wanker with a faux accent and a girlfriend who desperately trying to grow a beird. If you don't like the band don't go review them you hipster moron.
Roger replying to a comment from Jeff / October 7, 2013 at 04:59 pm
LOL. Glad you thought it was a visual masterpiece, Fanboy. What this has to do with my chartreuse pants is irrelevant. :P
Roger replying to a comment from Jeff / October 7, 2013 at 05:35 pm
For the record, I saw NiN as far back as 1995, when they toured with David Bowie. Even Montreal got a better set list than Toronto the night before the ACC gig: Nine Inch Nails even covered Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans." They also played Burn.

I do like the band, Jeff. And my girlfriend isn't "desperately trying to grow a beird (sic)."

Hipsters aren't your enemy.
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