"...you guys are in for a treat. This is the best rock show I've ever seen..."
Those words were spoken by the lead singer of the opening act of Nine Inch Nails before they played their last song on September 6th at the Los Angeles Forum.
Man he wasn't fucking kidding.
I've been to quite a few shows and have seen plenty of lights, fire, and tits, but so far nothing has compared to the 2008 show of Nine Inch Nails. A lot of acts use visuals to hide their poor stage presences or lack of talent, but that's not the case with the Lights in the Sky tour of Nine Inch Nails this year. First of all, they are great live. Even if they were on a bare stage with spot lights it wouldn't matter because their energy and audio quality is amazing.
Now that that's said, here is a video I found on Youtube showcasing some of their stage setups during this year's tour. This video hardly does it justice, but it gives you an idea of what a creative setup it is. You'll need to watch more than 30 seconds as most of the really cool shit happens later on.
Aside from it just looking great, their setup goes far beyond just being a complement to the music. I'm not sure if you can tell or not, but the stage has layers of what I believe to be LED light sheets. Not only do they look cool, but are interactive. During "Only" the front sheet was covered with static or white noise, and periodically Trent would approach it and where he stood it would "open up" to a small radius to reveal him. And even further, when you see his face being projected onto the sheet, it is all real time being filmed by a cameraman on the side of the stage. So this isn't just prerecorded imagery that loops as you see in most concerts.
Additionally, they had sequences where the imagery shown would react to the music, kind of like what you'll see in your media player, except way way way more impressive. The concert was loosely broken up into "themes" where the visual style would be different depending on what album the performed song was from. So with songs from "Year Zero" you had a much more synthetic and digitized feel which goes hand in hand with the feel of the album, and with songs from "The Downward Spiral" you'd have the typical flashing lights and smoke creating a much more gritty and industrial feel.
After a six song encore, they had probably one of the best exits I've ever seen. They continued with the ambient music of the final song and slowly, one by one would exit, each musician leaving after his "layer" of music cued out, finally ending with Trent on a keyboard lit by a single spot light until his part was over.
I've never been to a NIN show before, but saw their last live performance on the DVD they released. While it was a great show, it is nothing compared to what they did this year. So if you're a fan or casual listener you need to go to this show if possible, it's easily the best live music performance I've ever seen.