Mr. Reznor isn’t easing back into performing. Most bands play festivals with a bare-bones production, for quick setup on a shared stage. His is making a far more elaborate comeback. The show brings dizzying visual effects to an idea borrowed, Mr. Reznor freely admits, from the 1983 Talking Heads tour, filmed as “Stop Making Sense.” Mr. Reznor starts out onstage alone, and the band gradually assembles around him. From there, the visuals escalate. “We’re always pushing the envelope,” said Roy Bennett, the band’s longtime lighting and production designer. “We’ve always tried to make people think and keep them on edge and keep them wondering what’s going on.”
The trajectories of lights and video screens, pushed around by the road crew, are so complex that the tour has them choreographed — with time-code cues — to avoid collisions and tangled power cords. (But the band, Mr. Reznor pledged, has “no dance moves.”)
After the festival shows, Nine Inch Nails will mount an entirely different production with three weeks of rehearsals in September, to headline arenas through much of the next year. “The fact that we’re doing all this only for these few shows, and then we have to do it over again, throwing all this out to do a completely new thing, with new things that won’t work,” Mr. Reznor said, “that feels a little insane.”
But he was determined to make the return of Nine Inch Nails memorable. “O.K. is not acceptable,” he said. “Strangely, we’re bigger now than we were ever before. When we put the single out, and we put tickets on sale, the question mark was answered. This is the biggest it’s ever been. Maybe it’s scarcity or time away.”
"I’ve been less than honest about what I’ve really been up to lately. For the last year I’ve been secretly working non-stop with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly fucking great. This is the real impetus and motivation behind the decision to assemble a new band and tour again. My forays into film, HTDA and other projects really stimulated me creatively and I decided to focus that energy on taking Nine Inch Nails to a new place. Here we go!"
It took me more than a month, but I finally read the New Yorker’s excellent profile of Trent Reznor. As someone who is a pretty huge fan of Nine Inch Nails, I’ve always wondered what it must feel like for Reznor to stand on stage and perform songs that were written during a turbulent time in his life—especially now that he’s sober. It was clearly one of the reasons he decided to stop touring as NIN.
In the piece, Reznor talks about how difficult it is for him to perform “Hurt”: “You can’t help but relive it a bit, and revisit those times,” he says. “It’s a trail that sticks with you. It’s not like you can turn off the lights and say, ‘Good night.’” Still, it’s a beautiful song—as Johnny Cash’s cover proves.