Reznor and the Singularity

Well, they suckered me. After I’d heard so much about the vaunted FX of Nine Inch Nails’ live show, Reznor et al stomped through an opening assortment of Slip and Year Zero tracks against a competent-but-hardly groundbreaking backdrop of coloured spotlights and dry-ice vapor. Four or five songs in, I was resigning myself to merely settling for the best industrial noise this side of Eraserhead, when —

—WHOMP—

—suddenly the boys were playing Ghosts on the night-time sand dunes of fucking Arrakis, and then

—WHOMP—

— they were playing “Vessel” from what I can only describe as the inside of a Cylon epileptic seizure, all bloody static and distorted neurological imagery and pounding plasma wavefronts. They never looked back. One moment they’d be spinning ethereal instrumentals in a fire-blackened twilit wetland where the water shimmered like yellow mercury; the next the stage would be infested with phalanxes of luminous teleporting spindles of light. Torrents of televisual static — you know, the old stuff dating from a time when Gibson’s “television tuned to a dead channel” meant something other than a blue screen of death — swirled around the band’s ankles like sea foam, then took flight to coalesce into an electronic overcast ten meters above the flooring. The whole damn stage would disappear behind walls of light that morphed from waterfall to a field of pulsing topographic tumors. At one point, some guy with a squeegee came out and actually wiped the dancing visual static away from midair, for all the world as if it were muddy streaks on someone’s windshield. We saw a nighttime cityscape shimmering in heat haze, and igniting. Even the more conventional LED arrays seemed to be saying something, the patterns flickering across their faces just slightly the wrong side of random. I kept squinting to see if I could decipher some hidden message in those lights, and why not? This was the guy who spectroscopically embedded The Hand of God in the static burst at the end of “My Violent Heart”. It’s all noise, sure: but none of it is meaningless.

I walked out the stadium feeling a little like a Cro Magnon who’d just glimpsed the far side of the Singularity, with two thoughts tugging at the back of my mind:

  • Year Zero‘s logo for the Faithful Civil Patrol remains the best single icon of the contemporary U.S.A. in my experience; and
  • If Reznor had told the ecstatic, fanatical mob swaying before him
    to go into the streets and tear this fucking city down, Toronto’s
    police force — only marginally less corrupt than the FCP, if a lot less religious — wouldn’t have stood a chance.

I almost wish he had.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday August 06 2008at 05:08 pm , filed under misc . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

9 Responses to “Reznor and the Singularity”

  1. Ohh. Envy. :(

  2. Damn. You suck. Now I REALLY wish I’d gotten tickets for the Georgia show. *grumble*

  3. I own the “Easerhead” soundtrack. And I listen to it.

  4. He’s got to be one of the best masters of carefully controlled crowd chaos since J. Morrison.

    I couldn’t get tickets, ended up at Evil Dead: The Musical instead for a stickier set of FX.

  5. Is there a torrent of this or a similar show somewhere?

  6. if you do a youtube search on Nine inch Nails 2008 tour you can get a nice 4 minute clip of the various scenes (we had to do that because our angle was off at the show so we had great view of the boys but not so much the light show)

  7. Yeah, there’s a sample clip of the Seattle leg of the tour at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwV5cWLFM9U . The sound and res are about what you’d expect from handheld footage upped to Youtube, and you only get snatches of a few seconds each, but it gives a pretty good sampling of the backing visuals. Sadly, there’s only the barest glimpse of “The Big Come Down” at the tail end, and “Vessel” isn’t represen ted at all.

  8. Now if only it was available in HD…..

    Hopefully they come out with a DVD of this at some point. I’d buy it just for the shiny, although hopefully the sound would also be better.

  9. Saw them at Lollapalooza the night before. It was awesome.

    On another note, the Starfish re-release is finally available. Saw it in a Chapters the other day and picked up a copy.