Nine Inch Nails serve up three nights of industrial rock fury and catharsis | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Nine Inch Nails serve up three nights of industrial rock fury and catharsis


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It’s no surprise the raw aggression that catapulted Nine Inch Nails into mainstream success in the early 90s is still coursing through its founder, Trent Reznor, during this fall’s Cold and Black and Infinite tour; it offers a concert experience rooted in a dark world that’s experiencing some truly tumultuous times. An eternally misanthropic mainstay of industrial rock, Reznor is in a sense creating a space for fans to release any multitude of tensions, a chance to rage into the night, and, as suggested on “God Break Down the Door,” the single from Bad Witch, the final piece in NIN’s recent EP trilogy, “remove the pain and push it back in.” And yes, there is a political edge to this tour: an updated version of “The Great Destroyer” features sound bites from our current president, and there are frequent timely appearances of the band’s cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans.” A stripped-down stage setup provides a stark aesthetic, while Nine Inch Nails power through a mix of essentials and unexpected rarities many fans have clamored for years to hear live, including the debut of “The Perfect Drug,” a 1997 track Reznor famously had never played onstage before this tour. This free-form nature means the band are letting loose and jumping between different points of their catalog from night to night, a departure for a group long known for their minimal yet complex lighting and production cues that have sometimes led to standardized set lists for entire tours. Adding to it all is the impressive live iteration of Nine Inch Nails, which includes the only other full-time band member, Atticus Ross (who officially joined in 2016), alongside longtime collaborators Robin Fink, Alessandro Cortini, and Ilan Rubin. All of these factors are among the reasons Nine Inch Nails have been selling out several of their multinight runs during this tour—including these three nights at the Aragon. In June I trekked to Vegas just to see them, and after witnessing a band that feel like they’re in their prime 30 years after they formed, and leaving with an immense sense of release, having escaped the outside world for a few hours, I immediately purchased tickets for the entire Chicago run. In these seemingly dark times, Nine Inch Nails offer a momentary embrace of warmth and light that, even if born out of collective anger, feels like a stark contrast to cold, black, and infinite.   v

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