The Oregonian

June 2000

Nothing 'Fragile' about driving attack of Nine Inch Nails show

A kinder, gentler Nine Inch Nails?

Get real. Kind and gentle are not exactly the first words that come to mind after the group's incendiary performance Saturday night at the Rose Garden.

Thunderous and assaulting are more like it.

Essentially the nom de band of industrial music maven Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails is responsible, as much as any other band, for making heavy angst and techno-ridden metal a necessary part of a balanced modern rock diet.

In the tradition of such outcast epics as Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and The Violent Femmes self-titled 1983 debut, NIN's chart-topping, critic-enthralling 1994 disc "The Downward Spiral" is a standard-issue accessory of disenfranchised youth of all ages.

Expanding his one-man outfit to a ferocious five-piece ensemble, Reznor and company made their first Portland appearance in nearly five years, since a much ballyhooed tour stop with noted rock 'n' roll chameleon/cultural opportunist David Bowie.

While it was exciting to see Reznor play with his spiritual forefather, this Thin White Duke-free performance proved to be much more impressive.

Though the disappointing sounding and selling recent NIN opus "The Fragile" probably was a contributing factor to the smallish turnout, those 6,000 folks who did bother to show up certainly got more than their money's worth. Featuring state-of-the-art lighting courtesy of designer Marc Brickman, the same guy who lit Pink Floyd's "The Wall" show, the group's 100-minute show was a visual as well as a sonicly dazzling wonder.

Reznor showed why he's still rock's reigning Mr. Not-Happy as he railed against demons real, imagined, personal, professional, and some likely a little of all of the above. Like a human pinball in his own personal mosh pit, Reznor bounced literally and musically off drummer Jerome Dillon, keyboardist Charlie Clouser and guitarist/keyboardists Robin Finck and Danny Lohner as they brought NIN's savagely sublime symphonies to percolating, percussive life.

While there are plenty of post-punk thrashers out there working the aggro-rock circuit, few fashion together sonic sculptures as compelling as NIN. Putting as much effort into one song as most bands do in an entire set, it's no wonder Reznor takes sabbaticals between tours and recordings, as all that onstage raging must take a massive physical and mental toll.

Amazingly, the group sustained a blistering intensity throughout its set, slowing down only for a meandering middle section that provided a semicalm eye to the NIN storm. As to be expected, such older tunes as the discordant selections "Closer" and "Head Like a Hole" left the most lasting marks, but newer songs connected as well, especially the bitter, profanity-laden "Star ... Inc." Opening act A Perfect Circle scored major points as the group debuted songs from its intriguing freshman release, "Mer de Noms." The delectable dronings from this new side project from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan is punctuated by a plethora of dark dynamics and Goth-style textures. The moody Middle Eastern-flavored motifs may seem slight at times, but when all is said and done, the swirling sonic clouds of gloom and doom have an undeniably seductive allure.

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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.