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Nine Inch Nails Waves Goodbye To Chicago

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 31, 2009 6:00PM

A telling moment of Friday's Nine Inch Nails show at the Aragon sort of encapsulated the whole band for us. A middle aged father and his daughter were both happily bobbing their heads along to the chorus of "Closer" as Trent Reznor was screaming his wishes to "fuck you like an animal." Here is a man whose charms are so enticing that even the most vulgar exposition is made palatable by his blend of sonic wizardry and unerring melodies.

Reznor is retiring Nine Inch nails as a touring entity, wishing to focus solely on studio work, and the band that "waved goodbye" to Chicago on the first of two sold-out nights is not the same band we say lo so many years ago at the first incarnation of Lollapalooza. That group was marked by an erratic and borderline insane singer, careening around the stage doing his best to destroy everyone's equipment as he threw his entire being off the precipice and into the music. Reznor is now a bulked up and focused frontman. While we miss some of that old frenetic energy we are delighted to see Reznor can still deliver a compelling show. The band played stripped down guitar heavy arrangements of much of the Nine Inch Nails catalog, and the light show was a simple one run by a shirtless young man who seemed to have ingested all the contortions that beset Reznor in his younger years.

In an odd way the crowd mirrored Reznor's new controlled restraint, channeling it's roar back at the stage, at time drowning out the vocals and replacing them in a unified chant of reverence. The masses swirled and punched their fists into the air, but upon close inspection it was revealed this was a gentle sort of violence, directed outwardly but not at each other. (A quick peek into the paramedics room at one point revealed no injuries from crowd violence, just a bunch of kids who either pre-gamed a little too heavily or had ingested little pills that got the better of them.)

As "farewell tours" go, this was a good one. By choosing a (relatively) intimate space and keeping the show focused on the music, Reznor allowed his oeuvre to shine on a startlingly consistent artistic vision. Reznor has never ceased pushing his own boundaries as an artist, but he has still maintained a highly listenable blend of industrial grind and rock pop, and while we'll miss seeing that material interpreted in a live setting, we're looking forward to seeing what sonic substrata Reznor decides to mine next.