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Concert Reviews:
nine inch Nails Dazzles Palace With Sounds And, Especially, Sights
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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AUBURN HILLS -- Those leaving nine inch nails' concert Saturday night (Aug. 23) at the Palace certainly talked about what they heard. But they very likely talked more about what they had seen.

Never a visual slouch, Trent Reznor -- the creator of and force behind nin -- surpassed his previously high standards with his latest show, a jaw-droppingly inventive trip of the light fantastic that ranks in a league with past spectacles by Pink Floyd, U2 and Peter Gabriel, among others. For two and a quarter hours the five-piece group toured nin's seven studio albums with fierce dexterity, but it doesn't slight the playing to consider it mostly as a soundtrack to the sights that accompanied the songs.

The entire evening, in fact, was an exercise in each number designed to surpass the others. Strobe effects from a rear-stage light wall helped the group charge into "1,000,000," while the same rig pulsated with a rolling, wavey quality during "March of the Pigs." Rich blues dressed up "Discipline;" flaming reds accompanied "Closer" and "Terrible Lie."

Opaque screens both in front and behind the musicians were used to stunning effect on songs such as "Gave Up," "The Warning" and "Vessel," giving the stage an almost high-definition three-dimensional appearances. A set of instrumentals from nin's self-released "Ghosts I-V" collection featured projections on a scrim in front of the band, including rain and "windows" that framed the band inside of the images. Extreme close-ups of Reznor singing appeared on the scrim during "The Greater Good," while eight black & white live shots -- ranging from the band on stage to fans in the crowd and in the Palace rest rooms -- appeared rear-stage during "Survivalism."

All of that was driven by more than two dozen songs from nin's angst-filled industrial rock canon, which Reznor has wrested from the major label world and his turned into his own concern this year with "Ghosts I-IV" and "The Slip." nin played six songs from the latter as well as four of the "Ghosts" pieces -- as well as an airy, jazzy, "Ghosts"-style treatment of 1994's "Piggy" (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)." "The Frail" provided a gentle, piano-based lead-in to "The Wretched," while "Closer" sounded phatter than ever and the trio of "Only," "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole" brought the main set to a driving conclusion.

The only downer on an otherwise magical night was the crowd size -- not even a half-house, with a large chunk of the Palace's upper deck curtained off and still plenty of empty seats in the lower. It's a come-down for a once multi-platinum group that sold out the DTE Energy Music Theatre on its last visit, but those who were there can consider themselves fortunate -- and the rest can see what they missed when the inevitable DVD comes out.



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