Nine Inch Nails Tour Winding Down?

Never say never. Technically, Trent Reznor hasn’t uttered that loaded “n” word, but the Nine Inch Nails leader has repetitively claimed that he is waving goodbye to future touring. Fortunately, for select fans in New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles, the vocalist already changed his mind by choosing in late July to wrap up what he’s deeming the band’s final tour with a series of intimate shows and anything-goes sets. Only time will tell whether Nine Inch Nails take the stage again. Yet even if they don’t return, the band’s second concert of its two-night stand at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom offered plenty to savor.

Over the course of 140 minutes, Reznor and Co. supplied everything a concert of such magnitude should: Deep cuts (“Ruiner,” “Right Where It Belongs v2.0”), inspired covers (Gary Numan’s “Metal,” Joy Division’s “Dead Souls”), surprise guests (Bauhaus legend Peter Murphy, making his third consecutive onstage appearance with the group), a healthy dose of favorites (“March of the Pigs,” “Wish,” “Gave Up”), and a pervading sense of atmosphere. And of course, energy to spare. If not for an 11 p.m. curfew, it seemed as the quartet would’ve continued playing late into the night. Part of that is due to an earned chemistry.

Nine Inch Nails’ current configuration—Robin Finck on guitar, Ilan Rubin on drums/keyboards, Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass, Reznor on guitar/keyboards/vocals—has grown more assured since its early summer tour. Rubin, for example, didn’t blink when Reznor, showcasing a carefree enthusiasm that permeated the performance, fell into his drum set in the middle of “Piggy,” causing stage hands to scramble and reassemble the pieces as the song continued its downward spiral. Together, the quartet balanced taut control with flights of reckless abandon, with Finck and Reznor exchanging feverish distortion on a truly searing “Burn” and channeling palpable menace on a massive-sounding cover of Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution”—a tune further pushed to dramatic extremes by the leather-clad Murphy who, despite his 52 years and somewhat humorous resemblance to Neil Diamond, remains a master showman capable of shaking his hips and shimmying his shoulders with the conviction of a young clubgoer. As far as influences on Nine Inch Nails’ oeuvre, Reznor couldn’t have chosen a more apt guest.

Not that the band needed much help. Rather than strictly focus on its aggressive material—a move that undoubtedly would’ve pleased the moshing faithful—Nine Inch Nails created aural mise en scene via use of dynamic contrasts and material that drew from every facet of its career. And so, the paranoid electronic gristle of “I’m Afraid of Americans” shared space with the robotic soul of “Metal,” and the violent sonic throb behind “Mr. Self Destruct”—itself bridged by a foreboding albeit soft break—conjoined the massive doom and gloom evoked by the slithering “Reptile.” Realizing the gig’s import, Reznor attacked the microphone as a bloodthirsty shark would a floating piece of meat, his jaws chomping at words on “Survivalism” with a rhythm that paralleled the blinding flashes of the strobe lights.

Yet the quartet also found momentary serenity in a series of mellow, classically oriented pieces. Colored by the shadows and bathed with darkness, “La Mer” and “The Frail” functioned as textured mood setters, each leading up to the amelodic withdrawal “I Do Not Want This,” on which Reznor beat piano notes until they resembled the striking of a steel anvil. But then it was momentarily back to a quieter realm, with stand-up acoustic basses and twilight synthesizers affording penetrating self-reflection that underscored themes of isolation, displacement, and dread. Such minimalism doubled as a cocoon out of which Nine Inch Nails emerged anything but unscathed, the restrained tones serving to magnify the impact and intensity of the ferocious volleys that followed.

“Nothing can stop me now” hissed Reznor on “Ruiner,” his declaration ringing true in a manner that, given the band’s passion and the frontman’s history of reversing previous decisions, makes it difficult to believe that years down the line, they won’t be back for another round. And not soon enough.


The Beginning Of The End
March Of The Pigs
Metal (Gary Numan cover)
I’m Afraid Of Americans
Gave Up
La Mer
The Frail
I Do Not Want This
Gone, Still
Right Where It Belongs v2.0
The Way Out Is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Good Soldier
Dead Souls (Joy Division cover)
Reptile (with Peter Murphy)
Strange Kind Of Love / Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus covers with Peter Murphy)
Final Solution (Pere Ubu cover with Peter Murphy)

Encore 1:The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

Encore 2: Hurt

More fun from Montreux!

Now that the dust has settled, the folks at the Montreux Jazz Festival are starting to release video highlights of the show. If you didn’t get a chance to partake, this is the next best thing. Every Friday, they are releasing another concert.

This week’s feature is Kool and the Gang, check it out and the others here:

Back from Denmark!

It was fantastic to spend the last few days in Denmark with the folks at Bang & Olufsen. We will have a full story next issue, going over the plant and their history in detail.

Though the Danes are very warm hosts, we ended our journey at the ICEBAR in Copenhagen. The interior is kept at 25 degrees F, with drinks served in solid ice, this is the by far the “coolest” place to have a drink in Copenhagen.

Pictured with me is Bailey Barnard from The Robb Report and thanks to Geoffrey Morrison from Home Entertainment Magazine for taking the photo!

ThinkFlood Red Eye

I’ve been eyeing one of those $300 universal remotes for years now, but at the back of my mind kept thinking about the marriage of the iPhone/iPod Touch and all of my other devices around the house. You can have the Red Eye for $188.

The future is here, it’s cool and affordable. Most of all, it’s straightforward to use. Well, it’s almost here. The Red Eye from ThinkFlood will be in stores sometime in October, just in time for the holiday shopping season. While you are picking one up for yourself, I suggest buying one for anyone in your family that has more than two remotes laying on their coffee table; they will love you for eye products

The only catch is that you need an iPhone or iPod touch to use it. Even if you don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I’d suggest jumping off the cliff for at least an iPod Touch, as you can pick them up refurbed on the Apple Store for about $150. Who cares if you don’t need an iPod, this is the most exciting thing I’ve seen since AV gear started coming with remote controls attached.

Those needing an extra rationalization to buy the latest cool thing, here’s a point to ponder: If you have about seven remote controls lying about, that’s at least 14 AAA batteries you are throwing in the garbage once or twice a year. (Maybe more, if you are a mega channel surfer) If you are buying Duracell’s in a four pack at Walgreens, the Red Eye will pay for itself in two years and that’s about 50 icky batteries you haven’t dumped in the garbage can. See, now you’re an environmentalist and an economist; how cool is that?

The principle behind the Red Eye

Once you program the Red Eye for your devices, when it gets a signal from you iPhone/iPod Touch, it’s base station (that is no bigger than a standard iPod dock, but in a cool transparent blue) will send the corresponding signal that used to come from your remote control, to your CD player, preamplifier or other device. The Red Eye dock also serves as a charger for you iPhone/iPod, so that you will always have it charged and easy to spot. More organization, great stuff!

By the time the Red Eye is out on the market, they should have a large database of built in remote control codes that you can easily download. But for the companies that don’t release their remote codes, or the occasional off the radar device, the Red Eye will “learn” the commands by a simple push of the button. You only need to go into the setup screen and push the “learn command” button on your eye products 3

Easy networking

In the event that you don’t have a wireless network in your house, your iPod device can connect to the Red Eye via an “ad hoc” network. There are complete instructions for that on the Red Eye website, and it usually will not take more than going to the System Settings>Wi-Fi and selecting the Red Eye network. Now your iPod device will see the transmitter. However, if you do have a wireless network, you can link the Red Eye to your network and expand the range of where you can command your empire. This can be very useful if you like to listen to music on the system downstairs while you are lounging in a bubble bath upstairs. When the phone rings, just push the pause button and carry on!

Now the real fun begins

Once you have all of the remotes in your world entered into your iPod device, you can customize how you use these devices and tap the full power of the Red Eye system. The next step is to set up activities for each one of them. The more complex your system, the more you will appreciate the Red Eye, as will members of your family that aren’t as technically savvy. red eye products 2

It’s worth mentioning that the Red Eye will integrate into your lighting system if you have one, so when you want to “Watch a DVD”, you can program your system to open the drawer, change inputs to play the disc player, eject the tray and dim the lights. I told you that you needed one of these.

Even the staunch 2-channel enthusiast will love this. You can mix devices on one panel. For example, as part of the control structure with my Naim CD 555, I added a volume up and down button (that actually control my Burmester Preamplifier) so I don’t need to switch screens when listening to this player. I’ve done the same thing for all three of my disc players and it has made my system much easier to use.

Accessory of the year

With the rest of the accessory articles in the queue for the year, I can spill the beans and let you know the outcome in November right now. The Red Eye will be getting our Product of the Year award in the accessory category. This is by far the most useful HiFi accessory I’ve ever come across. Almost anything that is controlled by an IR device can be managed with the Red Eye. Now you can kiss all of that remote control related clutter goodbye.

If they can only make it control the garage door opener, I’ll be in Heaven.

The Red Eye will hit the market in early November, just in time for the holiday shopping season. You can get more information from their website at:

How The Music Biz REALLY Works

Wish I could take credit for finding this bit of humor, but I tip my hat to recording engineer Eliot Mazer. Here’s a funny bit from BBC Comedy on YouTube:


Sennheiser Sound Teams on Tour This Summer

Well known to music and headphone lovers all over the world, Sennheiser is taking to the streets of North America, exposing their wares to the public at various music related events and retailers. They’ve enlisted a team of very attractive male and female spokesmodels to demonstrate their headphones and according to their Facebook page, seem to be making great progress spreading the word.

Heck, I’d rather buy headphones from pretty girls rather than the dorks at Best Buy any day of the week. And Sennheiser does make great stuff, so you can’t go wrong.

I certainly hope this is the beginning of the new wave of hifi marketing…

Lollapalooza 2009 Wrap up

For the fifth consecutive year, Chicago’s Grant Park played host to the resurrected Lollapalooza Festival this past weekend. Three days, more than 125 bands, and a combination of steady rain (Friday), high humidities (Saturday) and brutal temperatures (heat indexes climbed to 100 degrees on Sunday) greeted a collective sold-out total of 225,000 concertgoers.

The downtown lakefront setting, musical diversity, and something-for-everyone choices continue to ensure that Lollapalooza remains one of the country’s top destination festivals. Along with Chicago Tribune Rock Critic and NPR “Sound Opinions” co-host Greg Kot and Tribune contributor Andy Downing, TONE Assistant Music Editor and Tribune contributor Bob Gendron helped cover the event for his hometown paper. Their reports for the Chicago Tribune can be accessed via the links (to the Tribune) below.