Rocky Mountain News

June 2000

Nine Inch Nails cuts to the quick

It's one thing to meticulously craft intricate songs of rage and despair when you take years to do it using the best studios, computers and musicians available. It's entirely another thing to channel that elusive energy into a coherent stage show that rages convincingly, yet is more than just unleashed anger.

But with state-of-the-art sound, a simple but stunning light show and last-night-of-the-tour determination, Trent Reznor pummeled his band, Nine Inch Nails, through yet another fascinating, riveting and terrifying show of pounding guitars, dance rhythms, metal fury and razor-sharp melodies.

Taking a page from Pink Floyd's The Wall, Reznor and crew performed the opening Somewhat Damaged completely blocked off from the crowd, which had to be content with flashes and glimpses of the band playing behind a stage-to-ceiling curtain.

When the curtain was finally ripped away, Nine Inch Nails was playing in a claustrophobic oven. The lighting rig that usually sits in the rafters was instead dropped to just a few feet above the band's head, making the stage unbearably hot as the band roared through Terrible Lie.

Given the band's industrial bent, it's easy to overlook the subtlety in percussion and keyboards that give NIN's songs texture and nuance that is, the thing that sets them apart from all the other raging howlers out there. Combined with startlingly clear sound, even in the upper reaches of the Pepsi Center, it was one of the most inspired shows at the arena yet, despite the unrelenting darkness of the show, which drew heavily from the band's latest album The Fragile.

Yet it's also Reznor's lyrics that set him apart, lyrics that encompass a uniquely Anglo angst. While the rage in rap music from Rage Against the Machine to NWA is aimed at society at large, Reznor has more personal, repeated themes of betrayal, broken promises and spiritual bankruptcy.

He reached a peak on his 1994 masterpiece The Downward Spiral and drew heavily from that album, ranging from the hit single Closer to the nihilistic Piggy and its chilling, flat refrain: "Nothing can stop me now / cuz I just don't care anymore."

Pounding guitars, microphones and keyboards into submission took its toll, with Reznor flinging malfunctioning mikes to the floor as roadies desperately scrambled just to keep instruments alive for the relatively short set. If there were any complaints, the brevity would be on top. Despite releasing a double-CD last year, Reznor left the stage barely an hour after appearing, then finished up with a standard encore. Still, 80 minutes of NIN at 200 percent power is better than almost any other band loping through longer sets.

A Perfect Circle, the sideband for Tool's Maynard James Keenan, opened the show and took the crowd from mildly interested to roaring in the space of 45 minutes.

<< Previous Page

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