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Review: Nine Inch Nails, Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Prudential Center 10.15.13

Nine Inch Nails Prudential Center live


Nine Inch Nails and the city of Newark, New Jersey have some old history. Back when Pretty Hate Machine was released, Trent Reznor made his presence felt at now defunct Newark venue The Pipeline, the same spot where fellow industrial acts Sister Machine Gun, My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult and The Electric Hellfire Club once performed. When N.I.N. announced a stop at Newark's Prudential Center for the Tension 2013 tour, plenty of memories crossed the minds of those who once stood in front of Reznor in a room of probably less than 200 people. A lot of those individuals made their way to 25 Lafayette St on Tuesday night, some even bringing their children along to witness what they did in the late 80s/early 90s, albeit in a much bigger scale.

It's safe to say that the vast majority of the trickling crowd weren't expecting such an intriguing set from Canadian post rock act Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The eight piece band performed under dimly lit stage lights but that only increased the emotion of their set. Placed behind the band was a large screen with random visuals of blueprints, protests and the Dow Jones on animals and vegetables. This stock footage gave life to the act's instrumental offering. Musically, the band had the virtuosity of the London Symphony Orchestra. Every twist, turn and screeching halt was something that the crowd acknowledged whether they liked it or not.

Opening with "Copy Of A" from the new album Hesitation Marks, Reznor & Co. made it feel like they never went away four years ago. The seated sections got on their feet during the next track "1,000,000" with drummer Ilan Rubin ferociously banging away on the kit. The opening blips to "Terrible Lie" caused frantic shrills at the Prudential Center as Reznor brought out his trusty guitar for the number. Even though Trent is now a father and his old habits have long been deceased, his ardor and sheer intensity on stage never disappeared. "March Of The Pigs" found Trent slamming the mic stand to the ground before serenading the track's final lines to the near capacity crowd before letting the rest of the band jump back in for its pulverizing finale. Nine Inch Nails performed at Brooklyn's Barclays Center the night before and decided to change up the setlist for the Jersey crowd with the next song "Reptile" and its flashing green lights piercing throughout the arena.

If anyone has ever seen Nine Inch Nails live, they know how much their visual aspect of the performance is simply engaging. Even if you're not a fan of a specific tune, its visual counterpart will entice your senses. Seven massive poles handled the immense light show during the opening songs but when they decided to jump back into their new album for a moment, the scenery drastically changed. Out with the poles and in comes a transparent light projection screen placed in front of the band. With backup singers Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson joining them on stage, the band went right into "All Time Low". The visuals of flames engulfing the stage received a strong reaction from the audience. N.I.N. performed nine songs from their new album that night; tracks like opener "Copy of A" and "Came Back Haunted" obviously had some folks in the audience singing along while deep cuts like "Disappointed", which was mightily heightened by the soulful sounds of Fischer and Gibson in the chorus, found the audience simply still.

"Find My Way", the fourth track from the new album, was a delight to watch live. While most the set at that point was flashy and eye catching, an unembellished blue screen was projected in the back. While the rest of the band were standing in the dark, Trent stood underneath a shining light while professing his dark past with lines like "Lord my path has gone astray/ I'm just trying to find my way". Much like "Reptile", the band switched their setlist up and jammed through "Into The Void" and "The Big Come Down" from their 1999 album The Fragile.

The punk-tinged number "Survivalism" flourished with Trent and the backup singers going back and forth with the line "I've got survivalism" while the following track "Running" had the vocalist adding some extra rhythm with a shaker in hand beneath trippy acid colors. "Head Like A Hole" obviously received a strong reaction from the crowd with Trent stepping away from the mic to hear his fervent fans sing the chorus.

Rapid foot stomps surrounded the arena as if the Seton Hall Pirates were behind four points with nine seconds to go on the game clock. The people implored for more N.I.N while others simply left immediately after "Head Like A Hole". For the encore, the band jumped into "Echoplex" from The Slip before heading into "I'm Afraid Of Americans", the Reznor/ David Bowie collaboration from Bowie's 1997 album Earthling.

N.I.N. ended the evening with "Hurt", a track that received critical acclaim when the late Johnny Cash covered it for his final album American IV: The Man Comes Around. Some folks in the crowd misplaced the line "I wear this crown of shit" with Cash's lyric "I wear this crown of thorns", but that's what made the night grand. It didn't matter if you've followed Nine Inch Nails since the Purest Feeling bootleg or if you've got into them because of that remarkable Johnny Cash cover. Acknowledging the broad diversity of his fanbase over the years, Trent simply said to the crowd, "New people. Old people. People in the middle. Thank you."