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Trent Reznor and the Oracle of Fire - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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September 6th, 2008


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02:44 pm - Trent Reznor and the Oracle of Fire
Two weeks ago, I saw Beck and Radiohead. One week ago, I saw a bunch of bands including the Indigo Girls. Last night, I saw NINE INCH NAILS.

You guys, I am a huge Nine Inch Nails fan. #1! I believe I have more NIN mp3s than any other. It helps that there are a bunch of remixes. But The Downward Spiral was one of the first CDs I ever owned. I think I first heard "Closer" on a tape in India. I remember kids in junior high making fun of some guy wearing a NIN shirt, thinking he was a poseur whose favorite song was likely to be "Closer." I learned all about Halos from a guy I knew at the M.D. Anderson summer program. I bought a new Downward Spiral disc from Half-Price Books when my first one got scratched. I own every full album, plus extras like Broken and Further Down the Spiral. What I am saying is, I really love Nine Inch Nails and was very excited to see them live.

But first, some pre-show entertainment! I met Rick and the illustrious Cortney for dinner at Le Cheval, and then we BARTed down to Oracle Arena, where we followed all the people in black shirts. In true duchessdogberry fashion, however—appropriate since I was also wearing a black shirt, my TCBUMFHNEMC shirt—I took a couple pictures of interesting things.

The following is the greatest thing I have ever seen:


I don't know, Le Cheval. I just don't know.

Then, on BART, I walked into the train to see this:


It's the first Facebook-gum ad! Although, if you look closer, the rest of the ad says, "Close browser. Open arms. Make face time." So it's actually anti-Facebook! I thought it was a really neat ad campaign, actually. Very clever.

The opening band was Deerhunter, and they were all right. They had a nice sound, but...that's all they had. Sound. Their songs weren't songular. They were more atmospheric and ambient, with some words tossed in now and then, like Explosions in the Sky meets Bright Eyes. Hilariously, one of their influences is Liars. Of note, they had a chick guitarist! Usually if there's one girl in the band, she's the bassist (or the singer). I'd never seen a chick guitarist. She totally rocked out at the end of the set like she was the sprite in Guitar Hero.

After a long wait during which Rick commented that we had accidentally come to see Nine Centimeter Nails, the lights went off. We heard some very soft music that Rick and I both thought was from Ghosts until I realized at the last second that it was, in fact, "999,999" because it led right into "1,000,000." Check out the beginning of the video, at least. It was an awesome way to kick off the show since it starts off with a pounding drum beat, and then the guitarist runs up to the microphone to play his chords, now lit, and then, after the intro, boom, out of nowhere, there's Trent fucking Reznor grasping the microphone stand. As I learned over the course of the show, Trent really hates microphone stands. He would knock them down and throw them around frequently. I imagine that somewhere in NIN fandom someone has written Trent/mic stand hatesex fic.

They continued doing songs off The Slip like "Letting You" and, of course, "Discipline." I wished the keyboards had been higher in the latter because that's my favorite part of that song, and it was a little hard to make out. Because the music involves so much electronic stuff, it was sometimes hard to pick out what sounds were being created live, but there was enough going on on the stage that you could get a good idea of where some of the sound was coming from.

And then just when I thought they were going to confine themselves to newer stuff, Trent yelled, "March, you pigs!" Oh motherfucking hell yes, it was "March of the Pigs," one of my very favorites. And holy shit, it was insane. It was like the music video except ten times crazier. Perhaps even fifteen. A total riot on the stage. I mean, Trent's been doing this song for over a decade, and he doesn't appear to be having any less fun with it. That video picks up in the middle of the song, right after the first "Doesn't it make you feel better?" After which there was almost no pause, as they just kicked back into the insanity. But you can see the bonus insanity at the end! After "Everything is all right," instead of ending the song, they gave us another raucous take.

About here is where my memory of the setlist breaks down, as I'm unsure of the order of things, so bear with me. They did "Gave Up," which surprised and pleased me because I didn't know if they played stuff off Broken. There was a song Rick and I recognized but couldn't place, as we'd both only recently bought With Teeth and Year Zero. It might have been "My Violent Heart," I'm not sure. Could have been "Head Down," although that might have been later in the set. I'm kicking myself for not recognizing that one, though, since it's off The Slip, which I love.

The stage got quiet for...a piano! The first couple notes sounded like the intro to "Every Day Is Exactly the Same," so I got all excited, but I was wrong. This would happen frequently, actually. Everything was so...loud, sometimes, that it was hard to distinguish the intros. But what the song actually was was, surprisingly, "The Frail," which was cute. Aw, Trent playing the piano. And everyone cheering because IT'S SO HARDCORE AND AWESOME THAT PIANO MAN YEAH TRENT. Really, people, it's a quiet piano tune. SHUT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK UP AND LISTEN. Then came "Closer," which I was somewhat surprised to hear since I think it's their best-known song, and I know some bands get tired of playing their hits over and over. If you like "Closer," however, you need to watch that video (in high quality, because you can). It was really cool to hear some of the electronic bits replicated with a guitar, but the coolest part was that after the second chorus, as the song goes into the bridge/outro, Trent leapt into the air...and when he hit the ground, the song had morphed into the familiar tune of "That's What I Get." It was motherfucking sweet. They only did a few bars of that before getting back to "Closer," though.

I think it was after "Closer" that the curtain came down and the show was over. Or not. Because now the band was in front of the curtain, and it was time for the first of many crazy awesome light shows/visual effects with "The Warning" and "Vessel." In the former, large light splotches were right behind each band member, changing color and morphing to the music. The latter was perfectly done, as the song is based on a pulsating guitar chord that manifested as a giant pulse of light on the screen. Even better, when the song made rewind-y and static-y noises, the light reacted accordingly. It was very cool.

Once the curtain went up, though, we saw why they had come out in front. Because people in the back had been setting up for the next part of the show, which was several tracks from Ghosts. That video is really worth watching, you guys. The visuals were really impressive. I don't even know how they did it. They had three screens on stage, three layers, each with a different projection, yet some of it still slightly transparent at times. I don't know how they managed to get everything projected right without, you know, crossing the streams. There were so many awesome effects, like raining and breaking glass. It was a great way to add to the Ghosts music since those tracks don't really stand on their own; they're very ambient. It's a different sound from regular NIN. Someone was plucking a string bass, I'm pretty sure. And Trent Reznor was playing the glockenspiel.

We were in for a real treat, though. Because while they were still in the Ghosts setup, they did "Piggy"! And, oh man, if any song would work in that setup, it's "Piggy." It was really neat. I almost wanted them to try to do other songs in that stripped-down setup. But I was also hoping that they would sort of mashup that "Piggy" with the "Nothing Can Stop Me Now" version on Further Down the Spiral, to get the rockingness back.

They did another Ghosts track before getting back to the regular NIN stuff. Like "Survivalism," which was great. I was not geeky enough to throw my fist in the air to prove that I've got my fist I've got my plan I've got survivalism, but the cute girl two seats down was. I thought it was amusing since she was very tiny, and I didn't think her fist would be that useful.

The curtains came down and enveloped the band; all we could see were some white bars of light. And all we could hear was...holy shit, could it possibly be? It was. It was "The Big Come Down," one of my favorites off The Fragile, even though I had not listened to it in ages. And it sounded different live but awesome. A little more minor—actually, maybe more major?—key and darker. And since it was dark (not just musically), I couldn't tell what was going on when Trent totally skipped a few lines of the chorus.

Still within the curtains, they went into "Only," which was neatly done because the screen displayed a wall of static except for Trent poking giant holes in it from behind. The hole would open and close around him throughout the song; sometimes the whole screen would go transparent so you could see everyone. Are you watching the video? You should really be watching the video. It does a much better job showing you what I'm talking about.

Next up—unless this was when they played one of my favorite Ghosts tracks, which I misidentified as "The Four of Us Are Dying" to Rick—was "The Greater Good," which was the only time we got a good view of Trent's face, since it was digitized on the screen. We could see his tongue and everything.

Then, you guys, you guys, watch this. Because some dude came on and ERASED THE SCREEN WITH HIS FLASHLIGHT. (Yes, I know he was not literally doing it, but the effect was awesome.) Even better, they were playing "Pinion," which meant...holy fucking shit, yes, they were doing "Wish"! Which was totally awesome, as expected. Having the chorus sung by three people worked really well, and it highlighted the coolness went Trent sang it solo at the end.

"Terrible Lie" was way cooler than I expected, though, since it's not one of my very favorites. But they played the living shit out of that song, and Trent sang like he wanted God Himself to fucking hear him. I seriously thought it was the closer, but no, they still had "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole" to do.

After "Head Like a Hole," Trent said, "Thank you!" Which was pretty much the only thing he had said to the audience besides "March, you pigs!" He doesn't do the banter; he just rocks out. And puts on a fucking amazing show. The NIN logo came up on the screen as we waited in the dark for the inevitable encore. I checked the time. To my surprise, it had only been an hour and forty-five minutes. It had felt like three damn hours, they had played so much.

Some shapes appeared on the screen, and someone walked on to turn white-bordered black squares red. It was very impressive, given that the red squares would appear pretty randomly, so his timing and memorization had to be pretty good to keep the effect. I recognized the Casio keyboard intro as "Echoplex," another of my favorites off The Slip. After the song was over, the guy turned the red squares back to black. Watch the video, it's neat.

And then Trent thanked us. But kept talking. TRENT REZNOR WAS TALKING TO US OMG. IT WAS LIKE HE WAS A REAL PERSON. He said that he'd had a lot of fun playing for us, even if he'd gotten old and cranky. He introduced his bandmates and then the next song as "something from Year Zero." It was "God Given," which I loved.

Then he did "Hurt," which was awesome to hear live because it's so much about Trent's vocal performance, which you can't really appreciate for most of the show since it's hard to make out what he's saying in the sea of music. I wished huge crowds weren't so addicted to cheering because, oh my God, I know you and your friends and your friends' dogs all worship "Hurt," but shut up and appreciate the damn song if you love it so much. Cheer AFTERWARD. Not DURING. It was quiet enough, however, to distinctly hear a woman shout, "I love you, Trent Reznor!" Which was amusing. I assumed "Hurt" was the closer, but toward the end, someone brought out a little piano for Trent, so his raised arm and "Thank you!" were not a sign of the end.

The closer was "In This Twilight," off With Teeth Year Zero, which surprised (and disappointed) me since I don't know it very well, and I had been hoping for "Demon Seed" the entire show. It worked as a closer, though, since they did the traditional "each band member leaves separately to individual applause" thing, leaving only Trent on his piano at the very end.

It had been an awesome fucking show—oh, man, I totally forgot to mention that we felt an earthquake during the show...like, our seats swayed back and forth for a couple seconds. They spanned the NIN catalogue, although the setlist was surprisingly Fragile-light, with only one real song from those two discs' worth of material. Still, it helps that I love the majority of their songs, so it would have been hard to put together a disappointing setlist. I love NIN and think Trent is awesome even more now. I'd always heard he put on a great show, but holy shit. You've got some competition, Radiohead. Look, if you didn't bother clicking on individual song links, at least watch this little montage of the visual effects for this tour.


I no longer have a face because it has been rocked clean off. My life feels sad and hollow now that I am not rocking out with Nine Inch Nails. If you are interested in joining me in industrial rock electronica bliss, I pretty much have every NIN song there is, so let's talk.
Current Mood: exanimateexanimate
Current Music: Dashboard Confessional vs. Brand New - The Quiet Screaming

(30 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:bookie85
Date:September 6th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
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They have those gum ads on the T too. The one that I saw was a couple making out, having "face time." I like the Facebook one better.

The exit, non-exit thing is brilliant, or not at all brilliant as the case may be.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, they had three of them in the train. One of them was the couple making out.

The exit/non-exit thing is, yes, brilliant. It was too good to be true.
[User Picture]
From:duchessdogberry
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
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The following is the greatest thing I have ever seen:


LOVE! I would so totally take a picture of that! And I'm glad to hear you're getting some use out of the TCBUMFHNEMC shirt!

I had a really really bad friendship break-up a few years ago with my friend that was obsessed with NIN and I had since just sort of stayed away from the bad out of bad association. But this was a nice read. Maybe I should start re-collecting some songs.

And how awesome that you felt the earthquake while there?! If you're going to feel a minor earthquake, it should be at an awesome concert or something.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
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LOVE! I would so totally take a picture of that!
I know you would!

And I'm glad to hear you're getting some use out of the TCBUMFHNEMC shirt!
I knew I had to wear black to fit in, but I was all subversive by also wearing a five-year-old.

I had a really really bad friendship break-up a few years ago with my friend that was obsessed with NIN and I had since just sort of stayed away from the bad out of bad association. But this was a nice read. Maybe I should start re-collecting some songs.
You should! I can help. Have good associations with me instead. Also, thank you for saying it was a nice read. I'm glad it was vaguely interesting to someone who wasn't there.

And how awesome that you felt the earthquake while there?! If you're going to feel a minor earthquake, it should be at an awesome concert or something.
Right?? Even though I thought we might all die when the arena collapsed. Still, our seats moved. It was so freaky. Cool, but freaky.
[User Picture]
From:filmtx
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
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See this face? It's my "green with envy" face.

Edited at 2008-09-06 10:11 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
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If you ever get a chance to see them, take it!
[User Picture]
From:kouredios
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
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I feel so old. I saw NIN live in--check it!--1995. Marilyn Manson (unknown at the time) was opening, and we were all like, "who is this poser, with his huge dice on the stage rolled to 666?" :eyeroll:
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Ha! That's always crazy. I don't think I've had that experience just yet. None of the opening bands I've seen have gone on to become huge. I guess the closest is MGMT opening for Of Montreal. No one had heard of them at the time I saw them, but now their music is in Skins and movie trailers.

I wish I had seen NIN before. The problem with concerts is that once a new album comes out, the tour is never the same because the setlist continues to focus on newer material. So you may have already missed your chance to hear your favorite song live.
[User Picture]
From:ashfae
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
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I no longer have a face because it has been rocked clean off.

Dude, doesn't that hurt?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
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I put some antiseptic on it.
[User Picture]
From:sjester
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Yay! I got to see NIN last year, with TV on the Radio (meh) and Bauhaus (awesome) opening. It was fantastic. I wish I could have gone up to see them at Red Rocks earlier this week, but alas, no. Plus, I had to cover a shift that day, just like when I had to miss The Cure at Red Rocks.

There are too many gaps in my NIN collection. I should fix that.

(Um, "In This Twilight" is off Year Zero.)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 6th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
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D'oh!
[User Picture]
From:ryca
Date:September 7th, 2008 12:15 am (UTC)
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I was in section 109, row 17, seat 6 (technically, although I really am not sure which row/seat I was in because I moved to an area with less people around me so I could just focus - my friends all had GA tickets, and they were getting-triple checked and wristbanded, so there was no Magic Ticket floor action for me).

Pretty fucking amazing show. "Head Like A Hole" might, possibly, have made me cry, a bit, but I'm admitting nothing. It's just that that's where I came in, you know? That was the song that got my attention and got me listening to all of it, and it was SO AMAZING to see him do it live and full-throttle like that. It's like my friend said on BART after as we headed back to the Millbrae station - NIN was the first music that made her feel dirty, and scared, but liking it. I know exactly what she means.

Thanks for posting the links and video! And for describing the effects and everything, because I hadn't been able to do that very well and nobody quite got my description ("It was like, there was this SCREEN, and there were these LIGHTS, and, and, it was like REALLY AWESOME").
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 7th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
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I was in section 109, row 17, seat 6
Ha! You were there!! Oh, we should have coordinated or something. Not that it would have been easy to meet up in that sea of people. I was in section 216, row 5, seat 3.

"Head Like A Hole" might, possibly, have made me cry, a bit, but I'm admitting nothing. It's just that that's where I came in, you know? That was the song that got my attention and got me listening to all of it, and it was SO AMAZING to see him do it live and full-throttle like that.
Aw. I think that was "March of the Pigs" for me. Not that it was where I came in, but it's one of my all-time favorites, and I never thought it could be three hundred more times more awesome than it already was. It blew me away. I mean, really, I suppose I really came in with "Mr. Self Destruct." When I first popped The Downward Spiral into my CD player. I think I had possibly heard "Down in It" before that, and maybe some others, but I listened to TDS over and over. It was such a great album, start to finish.

I think I tend to listen to the Opal remix whenever I want "Head Like a Hole." It's pretty sweet.

("It was like, there was this SCREEN, and there were these LIGHTS, and, and, it was like REALLY AWESOME").
EXACTLY.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 7th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
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Sell some bone marrow or something!
[User Picture]
From:stella_hime
Date:September 7th, 2008 07:10 am (UTC)
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I really missed out when they came to OKC. I didn't realize how much until now.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 7th, 2008 07:16 am (UTC)
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Time to build that time machine.
[User Picture]
From:missquita
Date:September 7th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
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I no longer have a face because it has been rocked clean off.

Ah, Sunil, I love you.

P.S. Was thinking about Dr. Mitchell stories the other day. Still miss them.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 7th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
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Heh. He got me into guacamole!
[User Picture]
From:outforawalk
Date:September 7th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
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I love that you mentioned the screaming during "Hurt". When I saw NIN last year, he actually bitched out the screamers. It was awesome.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 7th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
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I half-expected him to do it on Friday, too. Like, SHUT. UP. Unbelievable. It's fucking "Hurt," you twats.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:September 8th, 2008 09:56 am (UTC)
(Link)
Heh. That exit sign is a logical paradox!

That poster is awesome. Too bad it's just advertising gum.

Do I lose some sort of "cool" points if I say that I like Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" better than the original?

Audience enthusiasm can be good or bad. When they're so loud cheering or applauding that you can't hear, that's bad. That actually happened when I saw The Two Towers, of all things: people applauded so much I couldn't hear half the dialogue. But when I go see, say, Floater in concert and the whole audience sings along with every song because they all love the band? That's actually kind of awesome.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:September 8th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
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Do I lose some sort of "cool" points if I say that I like Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" better than the original?
I think a lot of people feel that way.

I have a similar love-hate with audience enthusiasm.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:September 9th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
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Hee, Kwik-E-Mart.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:September 9th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
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DUDE, I am really tired! Apologies for commenting on the wrong post! *headthud*

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