The Dallas Morning News

May 2000

Fans hammered at Nine Inch Nails show

Industrial rockers set aside subtlety, run wild amid raging sonic assault

What made Nine Inch Nails' latest CD, The Fragile, so compelling wasn't just the high-decibel angst - but also the more intricate sounds and delicate shadings. But such nuances don't always go over well with a sweaty, boisterous crowd that just wants to R-O-C-K - a fact Nails head Trent Reznor fully understood Tuesday night at Starplex.

So instead of playing up the more esoteric and experimental sides of The Fragile, the singer focused on the harsh rhythms and lye-gargling vocals that have always been the band's bread and butter. It wasn't the boldest decision he could have made, but it certainly paid off. Raging screamfests such as "Head Like a Hole," "March of the Pigs" and the show-opening "Terrible Lie" sounded every bit as toxic as they always have and easily whipped the audience into a lather.

Mr. Reznor and his four bandmates did explore more arty territory during a slow, contemplative segment that included "Mer" and "The Great Below Right." As water images flickered across three rectangular, TV-quality video screens, Nine Inch Nails started to mine the dark depths of psychedelia.

But they didn't get very far. The band spent the bulk of the show cranking out full-blown industrial rock while scrambling around the smoke-shrouded stage like characters in a war movie.

Keyboardist Charlie Clouser engaged in man-to-man combat with his synthesizer, punching and slamming the instrument until it bounced up and down and spun in circles. But the real ringleader was Mr. Reznor, an intense, brooding frontman who loved to writhe across the floor and hurl bottles of water into the crowd as if they were hand grenades.

A Perfect Circle singer Maynard James Keenan laid on the hucksterism a bit thick during the opening set, reminding the crowd several times that the band's debut album just came out and "daring" them to buy it. He needn't have used the hard sell, since the quintet's high-drama guitar rock easily stood up on its own.

Mr. Keenan possesses one of the most engaging opera-strength yowls in rock - a fact he proved years ago with his other band, Tool. And while A Perfect Circle didn't add anything new or different to the Tool box, there's no such thing as too much doom and gloom when the music is as potent as "Judith" was.

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Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails
This article is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously located at SUS.