Nine Inch Nails & Stage Design, Pt. 1

Trent Reznor retired Nine Inch Nails as a touring, live performance entity. Damn it. That sucks.
To lay the beast to rest, TR and his latest line-up did the Wave Goodbye tour, to, you know, say goodbye to the fans.
I was able to attend the first Los Angeles show at the Hollywood Palladium, and the Echoplex show. (The latter was originally the Last NIN Show Ever, but TR got sick, postponed a few dates, and the Wiltern show on 9.10.2009 ended up being the Last Show Ever. It would’ve been pretty sexy to be one of the last to see NIN live, but alas, it wasn’t my
AND SO IT ENDS. Forever. For a while? The end can make a girl so sentimental. Nine Inch Nails was one of the best live performances out there. By 2009, NIN perfected the blend of Fucking Awesome Loud Music, high production value, a long-list discography and a strong visual identity. Add to this mix, a dash of nightshade and Rob Sheridan‘s GENIUS (1999-current), and you have/had the best goddamn live rock show in present day.
Now that the prospect of NIN perform live is nullified for the future, it’s a great time to mull over the past NIN tours, pick out favorite moments and applaud all of those stage designers and geniuses.
Though TR put the band on the map with a beautifully violent stage persona, and an unforgettable romp in the mud at Lollapalooza 1991 (holy shit), the Nine Inch Nails live experience really began with the Fragility tour in 1999-2000. For the Fragility tour, Nine Inch Nails performed in front of a video screen triptych created by video artist Bill Viola.
Following an impressive, bright, seizure-enducing live light display, 3 LCD panels would lower behind the performers to display light and video media.

Bill Viola on the Triptych LCD screens:

These videos run a little long for any ADD-riddled internet-er, but skim through – Viola created AMAZING, original film for that triptych. He even photographed the beautiful California poppy field that adorns the back cover of The Fragile:
Sometime during the Fragility tour era, Rob Sheridan joined the NIN crew as the main art director / visual mastermind behind the NIN image, brand and identity. From this point forward, all live performances became under his and TR’s design jurisdiction, as well as all online web design, music videos, packaging, merchandise, etc. I have to drop the fact that Rob got this job when he was 19 years old, after Trent saw a NIN fan site that Rob designed and ran. HELLO. Amazing.

Five to six years after The Fragile and subsequent related remixes/releases, TR got sober, and the With Teeth album was released. Following the album release was the Live: With Teeth tour, art directed by Rob Sheridan and run by show designer Martin Phillips and set & system designer Roy Bennett.
This tour continued NIN’s reputation for amazing light displays and stage pieces.
The “Teeth” on stage was a combination of LED panels (flying and floor panels), rear projection and video media (film footage and animation) that fed to all three sources. Added to this – the usual amount of crazy, bright live light show from mounted stage lights.
For Performance 2007, it seems that NIN downscales a bit to a simpler stage design approach. Not to scoff at it – I think NIN keeps LED light panel vendors in business. Still using tons of lights and smoke/atmosphere, the only other notable stage pieces for this tour leg are the low-hanging light fixtures.



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