BY JOHN SHERIDAN
Nine Inch Nails has recently added Charlottesville, Va. to its 2008 Lights in the Sky World Tour. The concert will be held in the Jon Paul Jones Arena on Nov. 5, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Sept. 5 at 10 a.m., starting at $49.50 for general admission floor/lower seating, $40.50 for upper reserved seats and for a limited time, $25 for student tickets.
Tour material will span the band’s entire discography but will be taken mainly from recent albums “The Slip” and “Ghosts I – IV,” both released in early 2008. Both albums received mixed reviews among fans and non-fans alike, mainly because both albums are very different from anything NIN has done in the past.
First off, both albums were released in an astoundingly short amount of time for the band. Normally, frontman Trent Reznor takes his sweet time—about four to five years—to make each album but both “Ghosts” and “The Slip” came out a single year after the last LP “Year Zero.” “Ghosts I – IV” got attention as the first completely instrumental Nine Inch Nails album, two discs of 36 pure, atmospheric tracks. Some tunes are extremely ambient, some rather haunting and a few even a bit hardcore.
On his website, Reznor explains “I’ve been considering and wanting to make this kind of record for years, but by its very nature it wouldn’t have made sense until this point. This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective—dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams.”
Because it lacked the scream of Reznor’s voice that is so quintessential to the Nine Inch Nails sound, “Ghosts I – IV” appeals to listeners who might shun NIN for how “pissed off” they sound, and should prove to be amazing when performed live.
The release of “The Slip” started a buzz because it was free. Nine Inch Nails allowed the downloading of the album from nin.com, for whatever price one offered (including $0.00), a practice that is gaining popularity. Reznor put a note on the front page of his website next to the download link, basically saying, “Thanks for being good fans, this one’s on me.” The album itself felt lacking, but it is decent.
However, it is not as epic, epic in the way all the old NIN major releases were. They all had an underlying theme or a point to them, usually with a huge build-up toward the album’s conclusion. “The Slip” sounds more radio-friendly than anything before it.
With addictively catchy singles like “Discipline” and “Echoplex,” it’s more like a “Year Zero” b-sides album. Its crowning moment is the tour’s titular track, “Lights in the Sky,” a “Hurt”-style quiet piano piece about living in the aftermath of serious drug addiction, and it succeeds in being both terribly depressing and terribly beautiful.
Around the time of the release of the LP “With Teeth” in 2005, Trent started putting his songs on the NIN website for anyone and everyone to remix, and as a result there’s an ever bigger flood of NIN remixes than ever before, ranging in quality from useless tripe to better than the man himself. Playing alongside Reznor for the tour this fall will be Robin Finck, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Alessandro Cortini and Josh Freese.
Finck first played live with NIN at Woodstock in ’94, and toured with them the Self-Destruct and Further Down the Spiral tours, then returned for the Fragility 1.0 and 2.0 tours, as well as replacing Slash as the live guitarist for Guns N’ Roses in 1996. Keyboardist Alessandro Cortini and drummer John Freese have been touring with NIN since “With Teeth” in 2005. Bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen is joining NIN for the first time, but worked and toured with Beck for almost a decade.
Opening acts for the North American tour will include Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Deer Hunter, Crystal Castles, A Place to Bury Strangers and probably some other equally dancey, pop-industrial electronica groups. Nine Inch Nails has always been known for the effort and intensity they put into every show, as well as a show of lights.
If you want to see the last surviving vestige of grade-A hard industrial rock in America, now is the time.