Nine Inch Nails & Stage Design, Pt. 2

Performance 2007 Tour kind of came and went.
I guess they were saving the big guns for the most elaborate, ultimate NIN live experience/ stage design:
the Lights in the Sky tour in 2008
First off, I missed this tour…which is now becoming an Ultimate Regret. UGH. No matter. Pretty photos exist in this tour’s wake.
Interactive light screen. LED “cages”.
(photos by Rob Sheridan)
Moment Factory was responsible for the  Lights in the Sky 2008 Tour, and they created this INSANE INTERACTIVE LIGHT SHOW. Paraphrasing – the lights and screens were real-time responsive, and could be played like instrument(s).  Quoting: “Visuals are generated in real-time and are displayed on giant three-layered LED screens, making each presentation of the show unique.”  Peep the Making Of LITS Tour video here.
That’s Trent wiping the light screen with a flashlight as a transition – whaaaaaaaat!
“Closer” – in red lights – and allowing TR to begin the song in silhouetted profile, invoking the famous Mark Romanek music video from 1994:

There’s just. So much. Awesome. Pretty. Amazing. IMAGES.

WordPress can’t embed Vimeo videos (WTF), but the very best example of the Lights in the Sky stage set-up is here, for “Only”:

Nine Inch Nails: Only (Live in HD) from WhoRu? on Vimeo.

After LITS, there was the Live: 2009 Australia/New Zealand tour and  NIN/JA 2009 tour. Back to big basics, but there were no elaborate lighting set-ups for these tours, probably due to the fact that NIN had to share and quickly turnaround their stage with Jane’s Addiction and other bands. Still, there were big LED light column panels, and large rows of hanging stage lights over the band:

Australia 2009

NIN/JA 2009

Even when NIN does it “small”, the final result is rather huge. Juggernaut. Intense. Kind of in my face, even though I’m sitting in the nosebleed section.

So when Trent announced the retirement of the touring, live NIN band, and selected small club venues in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to Wave Goodbye to…many of us wondered: How the HELL is NIN going to fit into ANY of these clubs?

Well, NIN fit into all those club venues rather well.  Trent was able to share a small stage, when he usually had at least 12’x12′ of his own space. At the Palladium and Echoplex, the band didn’t seemed crammed at all. But they did explode every small venue they performed in, with sheer loudness and crowd swelling. Every show in NYC, Chicago and LA had reviews of being “dark, cramped and sweaty”, teeming with elated fans and music heads. Outfitted with their now well-known LED panels, NIN also threatened to happily blind us all with the bright lights and smoke and insanity.

Hollywood Palladium, 09.02.2009

Echoplex, 09.06.2009

All Palladium & Echoplex photos by LA Weekly

To quote LA Weekly’s Randall Roberts – I did lose my proverbial shit, at both shows. Though I expected an intense experience, I was impressed that Nine Inch Nails could shed its magnanimous stage design, cram onto small, punk rock stages and churn out the same high energy and stage presence that Trent and all his band mates have always been known for.I appreciate NIN’s flexibility in stage performance, for the band to adapt to high-end productions and to small stages.

Still, NIN provided some of the best live shows because of the overall commitment to original visual art and presentation. That type of dedication and expertise is rare, and the NIN stage presence will be missed very much.


Look at uber-fan here. SO jealous of her.


nine inch nails [official]

The NIN Hotline

Moment Factory


ninofficial flickr

Rob Sheridan

LA Weekly

TMCnet Bloggers

Fast Company

TMCnet Bloggers

Fast Company


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  6. Ian Perge

    To be fair, I think you underestimate the visual value of “The Downward Spiral” tour when stating “the Nine Inch Nails live experience really began with the Fragility tour in 1999-2000”. True, there were no LED screens in the show circa ’94-’95… simply because there were no LED screens *period*, but the combination of using gauze-like projectional material during sections of the show as can be seen in the “Hurt” video, the “Closure” VHS & DVDs, and various bootlegs of show from that period clearly displays a technique at work that Trent refined for the “With Teeth” Summer Tour as well as the “Lights In The Sky” mind-blowing concert experience (I got to see 4 shows, and it’s been the pinnacle of Arena Concerts since). But between that, the various footage projected, and the far more “low-tech” design of the physical stage componants along with the fantastic lighting schemes that Trent helped design along with the tour’s Lighting Designer, it was to the 1990s what “Lights In The Sky” was to the 2000s.

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