Reznor Vents His Rage
Nine Inch Nails' 2-hour primal
scream leaves fans exhausted
Fans at the Cow Palace were too emotionally
drained to mosh during Nine Inch Nails' harrowing
encore, which wasn't surprising. Its exhaustion, in
fact, was the greatest compliment Wednesday's
packed house could have offered its beloved band.
NIN mastermind Trent Reznor has inspired fanatical
devotion from his admirers by combining ground-
breaking studio techniques with content so
emotionally wrenching that it qualifies as a crash
course in catharsis. Albums such as 1994's
``Downward Spiral'' and last year's ``The Fragile,''
which premiered at the top of the Billboard charts
before being buried beneath a wave of rap-metal
and kid-pop, were at once templates of innovative
industrial music and therapy pamphlets for the lonely
MISHAP IN THE MOSH PIT
Both facets of Reznor and NIN were in evidence
on Wednesday. Played out on a stark, industrial
stage set, the two-hour concert paired evocative
musicianship with anthems steeped in simmering
rage. Together these elements created as thorough
an emotional exorcism as anyone with a little angst
could want. After opening with the instrumental
``Pinion,'' Reznor, wearing his usual black sleeveless
shirt and trousers, hit the stage howling with the
hard-as-rock ``Terrible Lie'' from 1989's ``Pretty
Hate Machine.'' Fans reacted so enthusiastically that
Reznor had to stop the show briefly while an injured
kid was removed from the mosh pit.
After that, unmitigated fury reigned. ``March of the
Pigs'' sent the moshers roiling anew; later, ``Starf--,
Inc.'' and ``Suck'' inspired both Reznor and his
audience to slam themselves -- and in Reznor's
case, his guitar -- against the stage in time to the
songs' vitriolic lyrics and jackhammer beats. The
grinding sexuality of numbers such as ``Reptile'' and
``Closer'' conjured up so much erotic steam that the
band began throwing water into the crowd.
The lengthy instrumental numbers gave all a chance
to chill, whether wallowing in the swampy doom of
``The Wretched'' and ``The Frail'' or being swept
away in the fluid melodies of ``La Mer.''
NIN changes personnel according to its leader's
musical needs, and the latest incarnation was
dynamite in spite of a muddy sound mix. Robin
Finck kept the band's grinding guitar effects flush
and consistent; bassist Danny Lohner and drummer
Jerome Dillon supplied the requisite mechanistic
thunder; and keyboardist Charlie Clouser lent each
song a haunting, synthesized heart.
The band's visceral performance was made all the
more impressive by the fact that they've been
touring ceaselessly for months.
If Reznor suffered from burnout, he didn't show it,
even when performing older material. Instead, he
appeared hell-bent on pushing himself to the
physical limit on rabid renditions of head-bangers
such as ``Head Like a Hole'' and ``Wish,'' which
culminated with the singer nearly tottering from the
stage as he flung his guitar into the mosh pit.
The night was given thematic and emotional closure
with ``Hurt,'' a painfully personal account of grief,
self-hatred and grudging endurance, performed
beneath a suspended light panel that looked like the
monolith from ``2001: A Space Odyssey.''
THE NIN ODYSSEY
A ludicrous observation, maybe, but one that fits.
Like Stanley Kubrick's 1969 film, a Nine Inch Nails
concert is a journey that leads audience members
into their own psychic unknowns with the promise
that, in the end, some form of personal
transcendence awaits. As Reznor sings in ``The
Fragile's'' ``The Day the World Went Away,''
``There is a place that still remains/ It eats the
eats the pain.'' Arguably, for two hours on
Wednesday night that place was the Cow Palace.
Life's a bitch, and then you fly.
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.