This was the third and final night of NIN’s mini-residency at Aragon Ballroom. It felt a little more special because of how the tickets had been distributed–there was no initial sale through LiveNation and the other evildoers, and instead you had to literally stand in line for 5 hours to get them morning they went on sale. Was it cold and aggravating to do so? You bet your ass. But that air of community and doing something with other people instead of through your screen while merely in physical proximity to other people was palpable, and worthwhile. Until it became clear a couple hours later that the FUCKING TICKETS WERE ON STUBHUB FOR ONLY A $20 MARKUP. Somehow NIN didn’t think to put a no re-sale on these fuckers? Goddamn it.
No matter once the shows got closer though. I’ve been to quite a few NIN shows, and they have not disappointed a single time. The best of the lot was a With Teeth preview “club” show they did at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2004. That venue holds about 4,000, not dissimilar to the 5-6k at Aragon, and the energy was palpable. But not far behind was Riot Fest just two years ago, where they smoked every other band from any of the three days by a wide margin.
So what did Trent have in store for this evening? I was just a little bummed to discover it was not the Broken EP front to back, which has been and continues to be my favorite NIN release. They did play Wish, Last and Gave Up though, so can’t complain. And the rest of the set was littered with surprises (Last, Sin) and multiple stretches of true momentum. Though Reznor is not nearly as crazed as the violent, barely contained maniac he was in the 90s and early 2000s on stage, the energy still surpasses 99% of any other band in any other genre. The electronic/dance bent of so much of their stuff gives way to a cathartic aggression/release dynamic live. I hope that never goes away.
The highlight was the sprint to the finish of the main set, where they unleashed in succession:
- The Perfect Drug
- Gave Up
- The Big Come Down
- Starfuckers, Inc.
- Head Like a Hole
It was impossible to catch your breath, but I don’t think anyone wanted to. For me, it was the thrill of realizing NIN’s bench is so deep at this point. And with Reznor still so prolific and somehow healthy, their status as a dominant, EVENT live act may just be getting started. Why can’t NIN become Pearl Jam?
The show of course ended with that contemplative moment where they cover Johnny Cash…er….you know. If Hurt wasn’t perfect, I’d likely be annoyed with it by now.
This was the best show I’ve seen all year. Now let’s keep it rolling Trent!