Nine Inch Nails at the 1stBank Center, 11-13-13 (photos, review, video)

There was a point during Wednesday night’s Nine Inch Nails show in Broomfield – about 4-5 songs in, actually – when someone in section 107 held up a lighter. It was a complete throwback gesture to the days before mobile phones, and it was somewhat bittersweet. Because if that person came to the 1stBank Center hoping to fully recapture their gritty goth glory days with the industrial Nine Inch Nails of the ’80s and ’90s, their wish was definitely not granted.


That’s not to say the show was wasn’t spectacular – it was – but it was a different Nine Inch Nails than the band that went on hiatus in 2009. Trent Reznor spent the time away scoring movies, winning an Oscar and playing with How to Destroy Angels, and the result is a more seasoned and mature side to his music, as seen on the band’s latest album, “Hesitation Marks.” The songs performed off that album Wednesday night – 10 total – actually featured back-up singers, funky Bowie-tinged bass lines and even a baritone sax solo. “Hesitation Marks” is actually – dare I say it – danceable Nine Inch Nails. But, of course, it’s also full of the dark, smoldering sexiness fans have come to expect from Our Lord Reznor.

And that is how the show was: Hard, grimy, haunting, yet packed with serious funk. It launched with synth-heavy new-ish single “Copy of A,” tore straight into “1,000,000” from 2008 release “The Slip” and then into a stripped-down, vocal-focused version of “Terrible Lie” off the band’s 1989 debut, “Pretty Hate Machine.” Ten of “Hesitation Marks”‘ 14 songs made an appearance, with the remainder of the show’s 25 songs total spread between seven other records. The black-clad audience seemed to enjoy the funky new tracks; a look around at the crowd revealed many singing along word-for-word. But it was clear the enthusiasm was reserved for the older tracks. Case in point: when the distinct opening drums of “March of the Pigs” sounded, a middle-aged woman next to me began jumping around and screaming along with every angst-riddled word, as did most in the arena.

And as Nine Inch Nails built the mood of the set, a blinding and dynamic light show brought the crowd further into the machine. From the giant LED screen dropping down in front of the band, encasing them in a digital cage, 3D effects and video projections, to the individual light cubes that strikingly bathed each member of the band in a separate light box (think of every stereotypical “abducted by aliens” movie shot, and you’ll get the idea), the lights added an incredible layer to the experience. Check out the pairing of striking imagery with the more-haunting-than-usual version of “Hurt” in the video below to get a taste.

Opening act Explosions in the Sky had a daunting task keeping the audience tame for 45 minutes. A NIN crowd is generally there for one reason: to pay homage at the altar of Reznor. And that means that any opening band is sure to be judged with an even harsher eye than usual, and historically is sometimes not even tolerated. It was a bold choice to have post-rock, all instrumental Explosions in the Sky open, but it somehow worked. I admit to loving the band for years, but it was great to look around and see fans from all walks – Affliction-wearing MMA bros to a dude who looked like Marilyn Manson on a really bad day – closing their eyes and just feeling the music.

Set List:

Copy of A
Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
All Time Low/Closer
Came Back Haunted
Find My Way
Various Methods of Escape
(Altered version)
The Big Come Down
In Two
A Warm Place
Somewhat Damaged
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
All the Love in the World
Even Deeper
While I’m Still Here
Black Noise

See our live chat from the Nine Inch Nails concert below:

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Laura Keeney is an online news producer and journalist for The Denver Post. She’s quite obsessed with Joe Strummer. Follow her @LauraKeeney and @onnabugeisha.

Seth A. McConnell is a staff photographer for the YourHub section of the Denver Post and is a regular contributor to Reverb.