Nine Inch Nails at McMenamins Edgefield (9/7/22)
Written by Dylan Davies on October 2, 2022
Nine Inch Nails rocked the house last night at Edgefield as part of the Concerts on the Lawn summer concert series.
I have been a fan of NIN since getting into The Downward Spiral my first or second year of college. I think everyone relates to that album at some point in their life and it must usually be around the first or second year of college. Something about its harsh ambience, sinister rhythms and shocking poeticism makes it undeniable. It is an album that must be enjoyed as a whole and many of the songs simply can not be fully enjoyed on their own, though my personal favorite songs are Heresy, The Becoming, Piggy and A Warm Place. That being said, the album is so deliberate in the way one song flows to another building to a unified crescendo and eventually fade-out with Hurt. Beyond The Downward Spiral, genius flows in both directions of the NIN discography. For example, Pretty Hate Machine, NIN’s first album, satirizes the synth-pop of the 80s superbly. With catchy earworm melodies going hand in hand with the familiar harshness and fuzziness of later NIN albums, Pretty Hate Machine is Trent Reznor’s masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. Later albums show an increasingly growing maturity as the music gradually evolved into Bowie-inspired acid jazz. Year Zero is another fantastic concept album presenting songs from a dystopian landscape. Yet for me, nothing ever beat Pretty Hate Machine. When I heard Nine Inch Nails were visiting Multnomah way, I knew I had to go in hopes that, even though I knew the show would be great either way, Pretty Hate Machine wouldn’t be totally neglected.
McMenamins Edgefield had a familiar line wrapped around the back, although this was easier to bear since we were prepared for it after last time. Yves Tumor performed as we got prepared with drinks, pizza and ice cream and sat down towards the front. They seemed to be playing a lot louder than any other act I’ve seen at Edgefield. I overheard a fellow concert-goer mention Nine Inch Nails had been fined $10,000 for playing too loud at Red Rocks last week. Fortunately I bought ear plugs which went right in. The pizza was ‘eh’ but the ice cream was surprisingly good, though at $6/scoop I would hope it would be!
The stage was covered in a backdrop bringing to mind the Downward Spiral album cover. It was a dirty beige thing that reminded me how edible the Downward Spiral album looks. Seriously; it looks like a kind of creamy toasted cheese. And while we’re on the subject, Led Zeppelin IV looks like a delicious flaky pastry. Both these albums are supposed to look like nasty walls but to me they look delicious and gave me a great appetite for the pizza I was eating.
Anyway, Nine Inch Nails eventually came out and presented a great selection of songs covering the wide range of styles, feelings and facets of the discography. First was Pretty Hate Machine’s deliberately OTT and ridiculous Terrible Lie, which signaled to me that PHM would be fairly represented in this line up. The setlist would go on to contain Head Like A Hole, which of course totally rocked, and an at-first unrecognizable, fantastically modernized version of Sanctified, which I loved. Terrible Lie segued into a familiar march beat, as Trent Reznor yelled “Lets go Pigs!”, and March of the Pigs began. The band spent most of the show hidden behind smoke machines and an excellent light display, only becoming visible when these two effects managed to cancel each other out. The entire display was extremely professional and well timed, contributing to the effect the band were looking for. I was expecting the constant strobing effect to be a thing after the band’s appearance in Twin Peaks: The Return, but to see it in person made me fully realize how effective it was in creating the anxious, disorienting atmosphere the band were looking for to pair with the music. The light effect during Copy of a was particularly cool, as the bands shadows were presented on the backdrop, and the light changed every second, meaning the angle and nature of the shadow was constantly changing. This made it look like we as the audience were moving around the stage, seeing the band from a constantly moving angle.
“What a fucken night!”, was one of the few things Trent Reznor shouted out between songs. There was not much stage banter or ‘Hi Portland”s which would have conflicted with the cool, disconnected nature of the act being presented. Everything seemed to go off with the cool professionalism of a group of people knowing they are putting on a good, well done show. The one song I was hoping for was my favorite by them overall, The Perfect Drug from the soundtrack of the 1997 film, Lost Highway. I had only seen this song in a few of the many rotating setlists the band seemed to be doing on this tour, so I had no way of knowing if they would do it. When we got to the encore, I assumed it would only be time for Closer, Hurt and Head Like a Hole but then the opening notes of The Perfect Drug played. A girl near us lost her mind, screaming “YEEESSS. THIS IS WHAT I CAME FOR!! I WAS WAITING FOR THIS!!!” and I said, “girl same”, because this perfectly encapsulated my sentiments. Obviously the song rocked and the extended drug solo was as mind-blowing as it was hearing that song for the first time.
Overall, Nine Inch Nails put on a professional show that left me craving more and hoping to get one of the other setlists the next time they come through Oregon.