Loud, Fast & Good: Nine Inch Nails Headline River City Rockfest

Nine Inch Nails is currently on tour, and that’s all I can think about, really. This run of shows is part of the Cold and Infinite and Black tour that started a few weeks back and ends with a near week-long residency in Los Angeles in December (all of those shows already sold out, I may add). A couple of weeks before that includes two nights in Irving, TX, outside of Dallas. However, this tour is rather different from others, even by NIN standards: official tickets were not available online. Rather, concertgoers had to get out of bed – ugh – and endure whatever crazy, irrational weather was going on the day the passes went on sale, because they were available solely at the various venue Box Offices. This put a damper on me, a guy from the suburbs of Houston, because the drive to Dallas is actually not that fun. Fortunately, I was able to forget about all of this last Saturday, September 22nd when the band headlined San Antonio’s River City Rockfest.

When I saw that Trent Reznor and co. would be performing, I knew it was destiny calling to make

Trent Reznor | Photo by Russel Gardin

the drive to see my all-time favorite band roar through another set. They not only did not disappoint, they surpassed my expectations from the last few times I’ve seen them. They took stage at 10:15pm and I made my way to the photo pit, nervous out of my mind facing the realization that I would be within indoor-voice distance with my music idol. The past week or so I have lived exclusively in a NIN fan page on Facebook where I noticed that set lists were, for the most part, changing from night to night. Oh, Saturday night was also the 26th anniversary of the band’s easily most aggressive, blood pumping release, the Broken EP. A set from a different day in a different city started with the EP being played in its entirety, for the first time ever, nonetheless. My hopes and desires for the day were that it would happen again.

Robert John “Robin” Finck | Photo by Russel Gardin

The strobes began flashing and the stage lights went pitch-black. Then some nasty sounding snare hits – progressively getting faster – infiltrated the speakers. The debut track? The Downward Spiral’s “Mr. Self Destruct.” It was loud, it was fast, and man, it was so good. Reznor was sharp on vocals, Robin Finck , spot-on with guitar and Ilan Rubin, a powerhouse on drums – throughout the entire set. A couple of songs later, the somehow even faster track, “March of the Pigs” was being performed. That song, I am sure, really drains a band, because of its strange tempo and mental speed, but you would have never guessed. It was just so, so good.

Later on, during the eighth song, the first song off the new album Bad Witch, “Shit Mirror” began.

Atticus Ross | Photo by Russel Gardin

This particular song is heavy like old NIN, but combines, almost flawlessly the electronic influences that member Atticus Ross brings with him. The album, really, sounds incomplete, but yet it so is. The album also has saxophone, which would not be metal if any other band besides NIN did it, which is on the track “God Break Down the Door,” that was also included in the set.

The only hiccup throughout the entire set was when, midway through “Burn,” the sound cut off and confusion loomed over the crowd. Did someone really just pull the plug on the greatest band in the entire world? When everything got restored back, Reznor finally interacted with the crowd, offering a brief apology and then going straight into the song “The Perfect Drug,” – the second time it has ever been performed. He also addressed Broken’s anniversary and how it’s so surreal he’s still touring, and, well, alive. The other thing that was talked about was the future of the band, in particular touring. With Reznor and Ross rapidly becoming sought-out score composers, rumours have recently began to float that this – extensive – tour might be the last for a while. Fortunately, the frontman called that nonsense. I cannot wait for this tour to be over, for Reznor to create some new ear gold, and come back to town with a whole new angle like he’s done for decades. Seriously, long live Nine Inch Nails.

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