For years, Trent Reznor, the mastermind and creative genius behind the alt-rock-industrial band Nine Inch Nails, has quipped how an 'acoustic' performance would be something interesting to attempt. And over the years there have been limited examples of Nine Inch Nails 'acoustic' performances -- usually in the form of a radio station promotional concert featuring just a handful of songs performed on a piano and drum-kit. But at Neil Young's 20th Annual all-acoustic Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline Amphitheater this year, Mr. Reznor, with the assistance of Martin St. Pierre, re-worked and transcribed nine Nine Inch Nails songs for piano, voice, cello, string bass and violin. Creating, by far, the most eclectic performance of the two-day event.
Traditionally, Neil & Peggy Young have put together these annual events to raise money for the school they created to support their son, Ben, and other children with severe communication disorders. The two-day October event always features an all-star roster of musicians and the occasional surprise guest appearance and this year was no different. To celebrate the 20th annual show, the other performers who joined Mr. Reznor included: Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Brian Wilson, Death Cab for Cutie, Devendra Banhart and of course, Neil Young, who opens and closes the show each year.
Highlights of the show included Brian Wilson, who looking dazed and confused at times, showcased a band that performed a huge collection of classic Beach Boy hits. Brian played at the Bridge School several years earlier and at the time, looked as if he was recovering from a stroke -- barely moving from a stool that he was propped up against during his performance; but this time, Brian was much more animated, waving his hands at times and clapping along with the beat -- all while sitting on his stool. If anything, Brian can definitely get a career as a spokesmodel for the "Just say no to drugs" campaigns.
So as you can imagine, the performances across the board were largely focused on pop-rock with a few folky tunes blended in to satisfy the staunch Neil Young fans. And then there was Trent's 40-minute performance which was nothing close to 'pop-rock'. Reznor took a huge risk by potentially alienating his hard-core fans and turning-off the mainstream audience by creating acoustic versions that, at times, were jarring and somewhat atonal. The renditions were largely true to the original electronic pieces, but presented in such a stripped-down way that I could only imagine the horror on someone's face after going out to purchase Nine Inch Nails music based on Trent's Bridge School performance. Personally, the show was another outstanding and potentially historic event. For those interested, I've included links to YouTube videos below.
The set-list for both Saturday and Sunday performances included:
The Frail - (Watch on YouTube)
Something I Can Never Have
Piggy - (Watch on YouTube)
La Mer - (Watch on YouTube)
Adrift and at Peace
The Fragile - (Watch on YouTube)
Right Where it Belongs - (Watch on YouTube)
Non-Entity - (Watch on YouTube)
Hurt - (Watch on YouTube)