March 9, 2006 - Rochester, NY - Blue Cross Arena

Nine Inch Nails… the name alone brings strange visions. Allegedly, it comes from the nails used to crucify Christ. Nine Inch Nails is arguably the most popular group in the history of Industrial music. The band is responsible for opening up the genre to a mass audience. It isn't really accurate to call NIN a group. The only official member is singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, who always remained solely responsible for NIN's musical direction.
Michael Trent Reznor was born May 17, 1965, in the small town of Mercer, PA. He went by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father Michael. At age five, Reznor's parents divorced and he wound up being raised by his maternal grandparents. He began playing the piano at age five, studying classical music, and later learned tenor sax and tuba in the school band; he also acted in musicals and became an avid Kiss fan.
After spending a year studying music and computers at Allegheny College, Reznor dropped out and moved to Cleveland with high school friend Chris Vrenna to pursue music full-time. At age 19, he successfully auditioned to join an AOR band called The Innocent, which released one album, Livin' in the Streets (Reznor's picture does appear on the jacket). He quit the Innocent after just three months and subsequently gigged with local bands. He also worked in a keyboard store and as a janitor in the local Right Track recording studio. Eventually, he became a studio engineer, teaching himself various computer applications and working on his own material during off hours.
Unlike the vast majority of industrial artists, Reznor wrote melodic, traditionally structured songs where lyrics were a focal point. His pop instincts not only made the harsh electronic beats of industrial music easier to digest, but also put a human face on a style that usually tried to sound as mechanical as possible. While Ministry crossed over to heavy metal audiences, NIN built up a large alternative rock fan base right around the time of Nirvana's mainstream breakthrough.
In 1987, Reznor appeared in the Michael J. Fox/Joan Jett film Light of Day, where he played keyboards with a trio dubbed The Problems during a bar scene.

In 1988, Reznor began playing all the instruments himself and recording his own Ministry and Skinny Puppy-influenced compositions as Nine Inch Nails. He originally hoped to release a 12" single on a small European label, but when he sent demo tapes to ten American labels, nearly every one offered him a deal.
In 1989, he signed with TVT, which released NIN's debut album: Pretty Hate Machine, after having rejected an initial effort called Industrial Nation. Reznor quickly assembled a backing band and toured with Skinny Puppy for a short time, but soon tired of playing for strictly industrial artists. He consciously chose to open for alt-rock acts (including the Jesus & Mary Chain and Peter Murphy), partly for the challenge of winning over fans who might not have liked industrial music. The strategy helped expand Nine Inch Nails' fan base substantially. The single "Down in It" got some airplay in dance clubs, reaching Billboard's dance and modern rock charts. MTV later picked up on the video for the more rock-oriented "Head Like a Hole."
In 1991, Nine Inch Nails became part of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, which expanded their fan base by leaps and bounds. Pretty Hate Machine's momentum kept building slowly and although it never climbed higher than number 75, it spent over two years on the album charts. It eventually sold over a million copies becoming one of the first indie-label rock albums to do so.
TVT had a massive hit on their hands and to ensure that Reznor would produce another one, they attempted to take control of the follow-up's creative direction. Enraged by the outside meddling, Reznor tried to secure a release from his contract, leading to a vicious court battle. His only recording outlets were side projects.
In 1990, he co-wrote and sang on "Suck," a track on Pigface's debut album: Gub, and also sang on the Al Jourgensen-led 1000 Homo DJs cover of Black Sabbath's "Supernaut." (TVT ordered Reznor's vocals removed from the track, but Jourgensen actually just altered them slightly and said he'd re-recorded it.)

Eventually, Reznor signed with Interscope. They helped him set up his own label. Reznor had been recording new material on the sly and in 1992, released the EP Broken on his own Nothing label, as well as a concurrent remix disc titled Fixed.
Broken featured more (and heavier) guitars than Pretty Hate Machine, partly in response to NIN's live sound, and partly, as a sonic evocation of Reznor's boiling frustration in the wake of the legal wars. It featured two bonus cuts, a version of "Suck" and the Adam Ant cover "(You're So) Physical," a nod to Reznor's new wave roots.
Despite many reviews characterizing the EP as a harrowingly difficult listen, Broken (supported by NIN's now-considerable fan base) debuted in the Top Ten and the first single/video, "Wish," won a Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance.
Reznor enhanced his reputation as a provocateur with a widely banned clip for "Happiness in Slavery," which depicted S&M performance artist Bob Flanagan being torn apart by a machine; there was also a long-form clip for Broken that was never released commercially due to its graphic content (a torture victim is dismembered while viewing NIN videos).
In 1994, Reznor moved to Los Angeles to craft The Downward Spiral. For the second full-length NIN album, he assembled a studio in the house where actress Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson's associates. The Downward Spiral was a highly ambitious work, a concept album indebted to progressive rock that featured the most detailed, layered work of any NIN album yet. The album debuted at number two and became one of the darkest multi-platinum albums ever.

In August of 1994, the members of NIN caused a sensation at that summer's 25th-anniversary Woodstock concert in Saugerties, NY by performing a ferocious set after covering themselves in mud just before hitting the stage. NIN's mud-soaked performance at Woodstock '94 is one of their most famous moments. I was at the show and saw the whole thing firsthand. It was great! The band members were so muddy that the security personnel were unable to recognize them and tried to remove them from the stage thinking that they were fans that had snuck past them. The band earned a Grammy for "Best Metal Performance" for their live performance of "Happiness in Slavery" when it was included on the 1996 ''Woodstock '94'' double CD set.
That same year, MTV put an edited version of the video for "Closer" in heavy rotation and NIN scored one of the year's unlikeliest hits: a song whose chorus began "I want to fuck you like an animal," which helped make Reznor one of alternative rock's biggest sex symbols. The ballad "Hurt" gained further airplay, even though it lacked the shock value of "Closer."
Later in the year, Reznor assembled the soundtrack of Oliver Stone's controversia lfilm Natural Born Killers, editing the songs together to create an innovative collage. The entire soundtrack played without breaks and was an audio equivalent to watching the film. It is one of the coolest movie soundtracks ever released.
He also did a duet with Tori Amos on the song "Past the Mission," a track on her second album Under the Pink.
In 1995, Nine Inch Nails hit the road with David Bowie, whose late-'70s albums (along with Pink Floyd) had been a major influence on The Downward Spiral. He also contributed a cover of Joy Division's "Dead Souls" to the soundtrack of The Crow and issued the remix album Further Down the Spiral, which nearly reached the Top 20.
Using money from The Downward Spiral, Reznor built a state-of-the-art studio in New Orleans in a building that had once been a funeral home. He produced Marilyn Manson's second album, Antichrist Superstar.
In 1997, Reznor had a falling out with longtime friend Chris Vrenna. His maternal grandmother also passed away that year and his friendship with Manson deteriorated. Even so, he produced another movie soundtrack for David Lynch's Lost Highway, and contributed the new single "The Perfect Drug."

Nine Inch Nails finally returned in 1999 with the double-CD opus The Fragile. It debuted at number one, with massive first-week sales, but slipped down the charts rather quickly afterwards, perhaps because the musical climate had changed a great deal over the past five years. The remix album Things Falling Apart followed in 2000, as did an extensive world tour. And All That Could Have Been, an album of live performances culled from the tour, was released in early 2002. Reznor was largely quiet during the next three years.

In 2003, the NIN song "Hurt" was covered by the late great Man in Black: Johnny Cash on his album American IV: The Man Comes Around. The song became an instant hit for the aging American Icon. This is one of the rare occasions that a cover song sounds so much better than the original. The song was a fitting one for the Legendary Johnny Cash to have as his final hit. A song like "Hurt" has more meaning when sung by a man of Cash's age. He could truly look back on his life's experiences, all his triumphs and his regrets, and when he sang it, it sounded like he really meant it. The video for the song is a classic, despite the apparent affects of the stroke he suffered affecting his facial features. It cannot put into words how strong and powerful both the song and video are. In 2005, Nine Inch Nails re-emerged with another chart-topper, With Teeth. The album is a product of Reznor's new drug-free lifestyle and a fresh outlook on life. The album sounds more like a band collaboration than one guy writing all the parts. This is more noticeable especially in the drum sounds on the record. Rather than using all drum machines and keyboards, Reznor enlisted the skin pounding skills of none other than Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters). The resulting sound is one that is more human and more reminiscent of the reason people liked NIN in the first place. Where most Industrial music tries to remove the human aspect, Trent Reznor has always kept the soul of the man behind the sounds.

That is what sets NIN apart from the rest of the genre. The album also features Reznor playing piano on many tracks, but not in the overpowering way that many listeners are used to. With Teeth allows the talented musician a chance to show off the lighter side of his classical piano training. Combined with the myriad of harsh electronic sounds on the album, it adds a layer of beauty to the record that is amazing. Though more organic than some of his previous releases, most fans of NIN will see where Reznor is going with this album. It shows that he can mature and change his outlook on life without losing touch with where he came from.
The band's current trek with opener Saul Williams brought them to Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. My companions for this concert were the one and only Sven O'Neil and his friend Cindy (a.k.a. Sinner). Sven had gotten me the ticket as a birthday present. He always gives such great gifts!
Sven arrived at my house at noon and we waited for Sinner to show up at about 2:30. She showed up right on time. The ride to Rochester was rather uneventful. We listened to a bunch of European metal, which Sinner and Sven love. I like it too, but not as much as them.
We arrived in Rochester early and made a stop at the famous Nick Tahoe's Restaurant to get one of their infamous Garbage Plates.
For those who don't know, a Garbage Plate is one of the best things you will ever eat. It starts out with some macaroni salad, home fries, and usually baked beans, and then meat is added to the top. Diners can choose from burgers, hot dogs, sausage, fish, and more. After that, a big ladle-full of ground meat and a spicy sauce is poured over the top. Upon reaching the table, all ingredients are cut up and mixed together and eaten as one giant mish-mash. It may sound like a mess, and it is, but the taste is divine. It fills you up and can cure any hangover (or prevent one).
Nick Tahoe's was recently featured on the Food Network where they were recognized for creating the one-of-a-kind dish. There have been numerous copycat versions of the Garbage Plate, but none can ever capture the true essence of the real thing.
Sven and Sinner had never heard of Nick Tahoe's or a Garbage Plate, so they followed my lead and ordered exactly what I did. They were not disappointed.
The food came out and we ate. The only sounds at the table were the three of us chowing down and smacking our lips. Ten minutes later we were stuffed to the gills. We thanked the crew at Nick Tahoe's and made our way to the car. We loaded in and found our way to the Blue Cross Arena. When we got there, there was a large group of several hundred people milling around outside. We found a parking lot across the street from the arena and parked.

We sat for a few moments and discussed our plan for the night, and then locked all our stuff in the trunk of Sinner's car. I grabbed a fistful of buttons to pass out to promote the website and grabbed my camera. I was trying to figure out where to hide it to get it in as we walked up to the doors of the coliseum. When we arrived at the doors, there was a sign saying no professional cameras. That worked out to my advantage, because I only had my digital snapshot camera, a Canon PowerShot 300. It is nothing spectacular, but it does take pretty good photos for the most part. I was psyched that I would be able to bring it in. As close as I get, there is no need for a professional camera, my little Canon would do a fine job!
As we waited, we bumped into other people from Syracuse. We all hung out together and waited fro the doors to open. As we waited, a small group of Born Again Christians showed up and started screaming at the crowd that we would all burn in Hell for our sins... since when is listening to music a sin? The radical religious nuts kept up with their shouting and many in the crowd shouted back at them or laughed. I approached the loudest of the protesters and asked him if he knew where NIN had derived the name from. All he could say was, "Blasphemy against God!" at the top of his lungs. He was absolutely clueless.
Here is an idea: If you are going to make a huge stink about something and purport that you stand against it, maybe, (just maybe), KNOW what it is that you are protesting against. The freaks that were protesting had no idea what it was that was happening. I feel that their time would have been better spent actually reading the Bible or sucking up to George W. Bush.
The redneck-looking weirdoes were doing nothing but making themselves appear stupid. It was almost painful to watch. I snapped off a few photos of the guys and went back to where Sven and Sinner waited by the door. Moments later, the doors opened up and the crowd funneled inside leaving the protesters out in the cold. We got to the checkpoint and I had my camera in my hand. The ticket taker asked me if I had anything under the camera to which I replied, "Only my heroine and a needle!" He laughed and made me show him what was under it which was, in reality, nothing. He patted my pocket and asked what was there and I pulled out a fistful of buttons. He waved me on and told me to enjoy the show.

Sven and I past right through the guy's line and had to wait for Sinner to get herself through the girl's line. After about a five minute wait, she made it through the gate and we made our way up to the merchandise booth. I bought a button for my flag and a patch for my jacket. The button featured the NIN logo from With Teeth and was two dollars. The patch was one inch by two inches with the standard NIN logo. It cost a whopping eight dollars! I told the girl to put the gun away, but paid for the stuff anyway. Sven got a t-shirt with the tour dates on the back. After that, we headed for the arena floor. We got to the front and were about eight feet from the barricade. We made ourselves comfortable and waited for the show to start.
A few minutes later, a guy walked up to me and asked if I was Tom. I told him I was and he informed me that a guy in the stands wanted to speak to me and pointed over to my friend Joe who was sitting on the bottom of the mezzanine area. I walked over and said hi. Joe asked if he could borrow my ticket to get down onto the floor. I told him that it wouldn't be possible because they were marking people as they checked their tickets. We talked for a few more minutes and then I went back to where Sven and Sinner waited.
A few minutes later, I decided to hit the men's room to relieve myself and remove my long-sleeved shirt before the show started. As I walked towards the appropriate area, I saw the lovely Miss Katie (a.k.a. Mara, see my story about Velvet Revolver). She introduced me to her friend Chris and I walked them over to Sven then made my way to the men's room to complete my mission.
I returned moments later and was just in time to have the crowd pushing towards the front.

Five minutes later the lights went down and Saul Williams and his DJ cxkidtronic took the stage. As a writer, Saul Williams has been published in The New York Times, Details, Esquire, Bomb Magazine and African Voices. His first book of poetry, The Seventh Octave was published by Moore Black Press in 1997. He has traveled around the world, performing his work to audiences throughout the United States, Great Britain, Turkey, France, Brazil, Scotland, Germany and the Czech Republic. He has also performed his work at poetry festivals such as the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and the Beat Poet Exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York.
After establishing himself as an influential poet, and then as an award-winning screenwriter/actor, Saul Williams then went on to establish himself as an MC. His approach to Rapping wasn't exactly in line with the traditional school of hip-hop. His rhymes weren't really rhymes but rather his poetry delivered in a frenzied spoken word manner that was more rhythmic than alliterate. His first major recording was collaboration with KRS-One, "Ocean Within," which appeared on the soundtrack to Slam, the award-winning film he not only co-wrote but also starred in. Around this same time in the late '90s, he began collaborating with other musicians, one of the more notable and impressive being the title track to drum & bass producer Krust's Coded Language album.
As a musician, Williams has performed with such artists as renowned hip-hop artists The Fugees, Erykah Badu, KRS-1, De La Soul, DJ Krust, as well as legendary poets Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez. These one-off performances, along with the attention that Williams garnered thanks to the film Slam, led to a deal with Rick Rubin's American Recordings. He recorded and co-produced his debut album with producer Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Danny DeVito's record company Jersey Records/Warner Chappell has signed the emerging star to a music publishing deal.

In late 2001, the long-awaited and much-hyped Williams solo debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, hit the streets. The album featured a full-scale band and Rubin's production, with Williams' manic vocals taking the fore. It wasn't a straight-ahead rap album, more rock-rap in the style of Rage Against the Machine than anything.
Critical opinion wavered, though Williams indeed seemed to impress many. He was not only invited to the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival, but also found himself to be a popular concert draw in Europe. The 2003 release of Not in My Name on Synchronic found Williams being remixed by Coldcut and DJ Spooky. His 2004 self-titled release appeared on the Fader label.
His poetry was interesting and intelligent, but the hip-hop stylings didn't seem to work with the NIN crowd. His thirty minute set was interesting from a lyricist's point of view, but even I wasn't into the whole package. The pairing of Williams with NIN seemed ill-fated at best. Most of the people around us did not seem to be into it in any way. Williams told the crowd that he had lived in the Rochester area and called on the hometown crowd to cheer, which they did, albeit half-heartedly. They were there for Trent Reznor and nothing more. Williams' biggest round of applause came when he announced he would be doing his last song.
The intermission between bands was a shoving match of great proportions as those near the back tried to push their way to the front of the arena. The initial shove made many in the front change their mind about being there. The security guys pulled them up over the barricade and sent them out to the side, where they would just run around and try to get back to the front.
A group behind us was trying to push past us and one of the guys kept grabbing onto me and I told him to knock it off. But unfortunately, he couldn't take a hint. I actually had to tell him that if he kept it up, he would be taking an elbow to the face. He kept it up and I overheard him as he told his friend that he was going to knock my glasses off as soon as the lights went down. It didn't make me any happier. I turned and let him know that I would destroy him right then and there. Sven just laughed, nodded and told the guy next to him that Mr. Jerkwad was about to get his ass kicked by the guy that had just been nominated as the best bouncer in Syracuse, NY. After hearing that, the troublemaker seemed to disappear behind a few more of his friends. He was not a problem for the rest of the show.

Moments later the lights dimmed and all Hell broke loose. The crowd that was relatively cool suddenly began to get very wild. The stage lights came up and Nine Inch Nails took the stage behind a silvery curtain. They started the set with a new song "New Flesh/Pinion" that I was not as familiar with. Most of the first song was performed behind the curtain, and then it was dropped. The next song was "Love Is Not Enough." I snapped as many photos as I could with the crowd in a motivated frenzy.
Having not seen the band perform live since Woodstock '94, Trent Reznor looked much different than I expected. I was expecting him to look like I have seen him in the past, (sort of like a young Professor Snipe from the Harry Potter films), but instead he was all muscular with huge biceps and a shaved head. I guess the new drug free Trent wanted a new look, and it seems to work for him quite well. After that, he launched into a string of older songs that really sent the crowd over the edge. It was then that I began to realize that the mosh pit was reserved during the first song. The pit really picked up during the second song, and was uncontrollable the rest of the night after that. The entire floor was the pit. Every body in the place was swaying, moshing, pushing, jumping, crowd surfing, tackling like nothing I've ever seen before, and it was awesome. It was truly one of the most vicious pits I have ever seen, and I have been to a lot of shows.
The band rattled off favorites like Terrible Lie, March of the Pigs, The Wretched, Suck, Burn, and Gave Up.

After that, they played some more new songs that are getting the most airplay now such as The Hand That Feeds, Only, and Every Day is Exactly the Same which got a huge rise out of the crowd. I think there was a greater reaction to the newer songs in general, but the floor was crazier and more volatile during the older songs, like Wish, which practically brought the house down. The band seemed to do an equally good job with both the older and newer material. The crowd ate it up, every last bit
Trent Reznor did a good job mixing up the high energy songs with slower, more downtempo ones like Piggy and Hurt. It gave the crowd some time to catch their breath.
As NIN was finishing Closer, I went to get a beer and a little bit of air. When I got to where the concession stands were I saw Mara's friend Chris. He was looking for the First Aid room. It seems that Mara had a problem breathing in the crowd and they pulled her out and sent her to first aid.
I helped him find it and made sure that she was alright. She seemed fine by the time we got there. She did get a cool souvenir though… As the security guys pulled her out, Trent Reznor threw out a guitar pick that stuck to the sweat on her arm and she snatched it up. I was a little jealous, but happy for her. I took photos of Mara in the First Aid area as well as a photo of the pick and headed back to the arena to see the rest of the show. As I got back the band was finishing up the song Burn. I never did get my beer.
During Eraser, a song with tremendous buildup and dramatic effect, the silver curtain came back up and a series of photos was projected up onto it. The video montage of decaying images was very intersting, with the silhouettes of the band looming ominously behind the screen. Newer images were mixed in and clearly political, such as George Bush dancing with his wife and a drive down a New Orleans street.

Hurt got a great response, and the whole place was lit up with lighters as the band played the tune that was recently made popular again by Johnny Cash. The show closed with my favorite Nine Inch Nails song, Head Like a Hole. By that time, I had reached the back of the crowd near the sound boards. Sinner was waiting there and we watched the last part of the show. The crowd went absolutely crazy. The band finished "Head Like A Hole," and true to Reznor's policy of no encores, the lights came up and the show was over.
After the show was finished Sinner and I looked around and found Sven. He was pretty beat up from the mosh pit and covered in sweat, but he was all smiles. It seemed a great time was had by all. Sven, Sinner, and I made our way back to the car and were able to get right out of the lot, onto the highway and home in record time. We all agreed it was one of the best times we had ever had at a concert. The NIN performance in Rochester definitely ranks in the top ten best concerts I have ever seen! I would recommend that if you get the chance to catch the band this summer to do so.
The last leg of the tour ended on April 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reznor is planning to take a two-month breather and then Nine Inch Nails are looking at another busy summer. NIN will kick off their next tour on May 26 in George, Washington, when they close out the first night of this year's Sasquatch Music Festival. The arena tour is scheduled to conclude on July 8 in Mountain View, California.

For this next road trip, Nine Inch Nails have called on two acts to fill the opening slots: U.K. gloom merchants Bauhaus will take the stage for the entire tour, just before NIN's set, and the first 14 dates of the tour will also feature TV on the Radio. The band has yet to book a second opener for the latter half of the trek, which begins June 16 in Holmdel, New Jersey. Itinerary and on-sale information is available on's performance page. In the meantime, Nine Inch Nail's single for "Every Day Is Exactly the Same," out April 4, will feature remixes of the track as well as remixes of "The Hand That Feeds" and "Only."
Here is the full March 9, 2006 Setlist: new flesh/pinion - love is not enough - you know what you are - terrible lie - line begins to blue - march of the pigs - piggy - frail/wretched - closer - burn - gave up - eraser - right where it belongs - beside you in time - the day the world went away - wish - only - every day is exactly the same - suck - hurt - hand that feeds - head like a hole

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