Jumpstarting their Tension 2013 North American tour, Nine Inch Nails performed to a crowd nearly stacked to the rafters at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota. The audience seemed to include mostly long time fans a bit older and a bit tamer than previous NIN shows. But that didn’t stop a few crowd surfers or Trent Reznor himself from taking a little bath in the crowd at one point. I did avoid the floor based on past show experiences, choosing the more mellow seating of the lower level, which turned out to have an awesome vantage point. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house at the Xcel and it’s probably my favorite venue in the Twin Cities for larger shows.

TrentReznor_Tension2013Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails at Xcel Energy Center, Sept 28, 2013. Photo by RealityTC.

The Tension 2013 tour is heavily focused on the new album, Hesitation Marks.

I am really enjoying this album (read my review here) so I loved that the live show included a lot of fresh material—but there was definitely a bit of a cooler reception to some of the new songs compared to the old favorites. I attribute some of this to the fact that Hesitation Marks hasn’t been out that long because I personally think it’s some of Reznor’s best work.

The crowd went insane for Survivalism, Wish, The Hand that Feeds and Head Like A Hole. And as you might expect, the show was visually amazing, with greatly controlled lighting and fog effects. The song Disappointed, which wasn’t my favorite on the album, came to life in the live show with some very trippy 3D effects that had the crowd cheering. I really enjoyed hearing my favorite new songs live, particularly All Time Low, Satellite, Copy of A and Came Back Haunted—also an audience favorite.

NINatXcelOne of the show’s F yeah moments!

The band was tight and Reznor’s voice sounded great.

I thought the backing vocals, especially by Lisa Fischer—whose credits include The Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross & Tina Turner—added a lot to the performance. Logistically, there were a few minor technical glitches that Reznor apologized for and were understandable given that this was the first show of the tour.

The band lineup included: Trent Reznor, Josh Eustis (sax, synth, guitar, vocals), Pino Palladino (bass), Alessandro Cortini (synth), Robin Finck (guitar, synth), Ilan Rubin (drums, percussion, synth), Lisa Fischer (background vocals), Sharlotte Gibson (background vocals).

Nine Inch Nails supporting cast

The climax of the show was Head Like A Hole after which the NIN sign briefly appeared and I thought the band would leave the stage but they didn’t.

Instead, Reznor introduced the band then took the encore to a darker place—rounding out the set with Even Deeper, In This Twilight, While I’m Still Here and Black Noise. They closed with Hurt, which featured a haunting and depressing annihilation video—which if you like dark sad things like I do, was pretty much the perfect ending.

Plus, there were real lighters. That’s rock ‘n’ roll people.






1. Copy of A [Hesitation Marks]
2. 1,000,000 [The Slip]
3. Terrible Lie [Pretty Hate Machine]
4. March of the Pigs [The Downward Spiral]
5. Piggy [The Downward Spiral]
6. All Time Low [Hesitation Marks]
7. Disappointed [Hesitation Marks]
8. Came Back Haunted [Hesitation Marks]
9. Find My Way [Hesitation Marks]
10. Satellite [Hesitation Marks]
11. I Would For You [Hesitation Marks]
12. Survivalism [Year Zero]
13.  Running [Hesitation Marks]
14. A Warm Place – Instrumental [The Downward Spiral]
15. Somewhat Damaged [The Fragile]
16. Wish [Broken]
17. Only [With Teeth]
18. The Hand That Feeds [With Teeth]
19. Head Like A Hole [Pretty Hate Machine]
Encore (they didn’t leave the stage, Reznor just introduced the band at this point)
20. Even Deeper [The Fragile]
21. In This Twilight [Year Zero]
22. While I’m Still Here [Hesitation Marks]
23. Black Noise [Hesitation Marks]
24. Hurt [The Downward Spiral]

Special thanks to Nine Inch Nails Tour History for helping me out with the set list.

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