Nine Inch Nails pummels fans in Lincoln

By Josh Bashara for U of Omaha Gateway on February 21, 2006

It's been six years since Nine Inch Nails played in Nebraska, and things have changed since then. Last Friday's show at the Pershing in Lincoln-while still a concert to be reckoned with-illustrated how time doesn't discriminate.

Industrial rock pioneer Trent Reznor is no longer the masochistic, makeup-clad prince of darkness that he was in 1994-95, during the "Self Destruct Tour." He's told the press that he's sober as a judge these days. He turned 40 a few months ago and his fans are getting older alongside him. Friday's show at Pershing-well, sure...there were lots of young kids-but at least half the crowd was made up of 20- and 30-somethings who were teenagers when NIN's first album, Pretty Hate Machine, was released.

Braving the freezing cold, thousands flocked to Lincoln to see a show that most already knew wouldn't disappoint. Openers, the Moving Units, helped warm up the crowd with their little dance/electro numbers, but one couldn't help but wonder what on earth this little low-key, Faint-inspired band was doing opening up for NIN.

The crowd's patience was rewarded an hour later when the house lights fell and the familiar, foreboding notes of "Pinion" began playing. What appeared to be a silkscreen curtain was still in front of the band when they took the stage, playing "Love Is Not Enough" as merely silhouettes. The audience was alive with a unique energy, one that I only see at NIN shows. When that curtain rose, it was the reaction of finally seeing your pain, sorrow and passion embodied in the flesh.

The first half of a concert is when the audience still has enough energy to go completely nuts, so the entire run through songs like "Terrble Lie," "March of the Pigs" and "Burn" was a blur. A pulsating crowd. Thousands of arms in the air flailing like tentacles. A mosh pit breaking out here or there, crowd surfers thrown violently around overhead-the usual madness of any rock concert, plus a good dose of that self-gratifying NIN angst.

It was about mid-show when things really began to get interesting. The silkscreen-like curtain that had hung in front of the band during the first song dropped again, but this time was used as a screen for a video projector. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest things I've ever seen at a show.

You could still clearly see the band members through the screen, but projected on the screen in front of them were video clips; a mixture of horrific Middle East war footage, Reznor's animal predator/prey clips and yes, even President Bush up there doing some ballroom dancing. This footage began with "Eraser," the guitar-driven, pummeling metal track from The Downward Spiral. It wound down with the poignant "Right Where it Belongs," then culminated with "Beside You In Time." At the climax of this song, the shattering of a huge glass panel was simulated on the screen as it rose up and revealed the band, all the spots and lighting panels afire with visual noise (like the dead-air snow on TV). It was an amazing way to segue into the second act of the show.

"Wish," the thrashing track from Broken, was accompanied by a bombardment of intense strobe effects. It was a great, updated rendition of the decade-old song. Reznor plowed through a few more tracks from With Teeth: "Only," "Getting Smaller" and the title track, which he actually busted out a tambourine for (which he later threw into the crowd).

As the concert neared its end, the lighting dimmed and a single spot illuminated Reznor from behind, signaling the beginning of the fan-favorite (and Johnny-Cash-covered) "Hurt." Reznor sung and played the keyboard piano, and it sounded great. As was the case for the entire show-or any NIN show for that matter-sound is a huge priority, and the entire concert sounded crisp, clear and loud.

As "Hurt" drew to a close, hundreds of lighters that had been held up in the air were doused by blinding, white stage spots that poured over the crowd. Reznor kicked it up a notch for the two finale songs, "The Hand That Feeds" and, of course, "Head Like a Hole."

The majority of the crowd knew this song signaled the end of the set, so everyone gave it their all for one final, powerful push. Some danced, some moshed and some stood there, just smiling in awe.

At the end of the show, after the band threw their guitars across the stage and walked off, and the house lights came up, the crowd was buzzing as it made its way back out into the freezing Nebraska winter. Most, though, still had that smile on their face. Whether it was their first time or seventh time seeing a Nine Inch Nails show, everyone knew that they had gotten the chance to see all that emotion-the pain, the angst and the passion-alive and onstage with their own two eyes.

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