June 2000

Trent Reznor and company attacked the stage in support of "The Fragile."

Nearly five years ago, Trent Reznor ended his tour in support of Nine Inch Nails' multi-platinum album "The Downward Spiral" and slipped into relative obscurity. A lengthy bout with writer's block followed before work on a new album began in earnest in 1997. Finally, after spending two years locked away in his New Orleans recording studio, the 35-year-old Reznor emerged last September with the release of "The Fragile"--a sprawling, 104-minute double album--and put the Nine Inch Nails touring machine back in motion.

Tuesday night (6/6) at Anaheim's Arrowhead Pond, the industrial rock godfather and his bandmates proved that the extensive time off the road has done nothing to dull the razor-sharp edge of their live performances. Including many of the lush, meandering numbers found on "The Fragile" has, in fact, given the band's show a richer, more theatrical feel, one that serves as a perfect counterbalance to the aggressive--sometimes violent--delivery of older, more explosive tracks.

Opening for NIN on its U.S. tour is A Perfect Circle, featuring Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and former NIN guitar-tech Billy Howerdel. The group delivered a moody, guitar-driven, 45-minute set of songs from its debut album "Mer De Noms," which debuted last week at No. 4 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart.

The Southern California crowd was then teased into a frenzy by the swelling strains of the buzzsaw-like "Pinion" from NIN's 1992 "Broken" EP before the curtain fell to reveal Reznor, guitarist-keyboardist Danny Lohner, guitarist Robin Finck, keyboardist Charlie Clouser and drummer Jerome Dillon. The quintet--adorned in standard-issue black clothing, boots, black lipstick, dark eye makeup and a generous powdering of corn starch--proceeded to wage a 90-minute, all-out sensory assault on the capacity crowd--and each other.

The band revved things up with "Terrible Lie" and "Sin" from its 1989 breakthrough debut "Pretty Hate Machine," followed by "March of the Pigs" and "Piggy" from 1994's "The Downward Spiral." Reznor wasted no time attacking Lohner and Finck as he thrashed about the stage; he managed to launch Finck into the crowd for a brief bit of crowd-surfing shortly before he himself hopped down into the security pit and leaned into the sea of bodies surging against the barricade.

With the crowd immediately won over, the group changed gears and broke out some of the moodier, more epic material from "The Fragile." Most of the middle of the band's set, in fact, was comprised of newer songs, including a number of instrumental tunes. Those not familiar with NIN's live performances might assume the industrial/electronic fare heard on the band's albums isn't conducive to live jamming; they'd be wrong.

The production featured a dazzling light show, accented most noticeably by three giant LED screens that were intermittently positioned both above and behind the band. Hypnotic images of water and fire interspersed between colorful patterns and blinding strobes accented the sonic delivery of each song performed throughout the night.

The group ended its regular set with two sure-fire crowd pleasers. "Closer" was delivered amidst a wash of brilliant red lights while lava-like images lit up the LED screens, and "Head Like a Hole" was accented by blinding white strobes and spotlights that illuminated the entire arena.

After leaving the stage amidst the roars of the now-frenzied crowd, Reznor returned to address the fans before breaking into a five-song encore.

"We've been away for a long time," Reznor said. "When you go away for such a long time, you don't know if anyone's gonna be there when you come back. To have you all still here means the world to us."

With that, the band launched into four more tracks from "The Fragile," including "Starf--ckers"--an ode inspired by Reznor's friend-cum-enemy-cum-friend Marilyn Manson, whose bandmates were in the crowd during this show.

"Hurt," the final track from "Downward Spiral," was also the final song of the night, with Reznor delivering the vocals as gut-wrenchingly as ever.

Chalk it all up as evidence that Nine Inch Nails has definitely evolved during its time off.

Set list:

Terrible Lie
March of Pigs
The Frail
The Wretched
Gave Up
La Mer
The Great Below
The Mark Has Been Made
Head Like a Hole
The Day the World Went Away
Just Like You Imagined
Even Deeper

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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.