Denver Post

June 2000

Nine Inch Nails delivers bang-up show

Nihilist-rock gods Nine Inch Nails, led by iconoclast Trent Reznor, played the final show of their "Fragility v2.0 Tour" in front of 9,656 appreciative fans at Pepsi Center Sunday night. The tour, NIN's first North American road trip in five years, promoted the 1999 double-CD, "The Fragile" (Nothing Records).

Nihilism, if you slept through philosophy class, essentially holds that nothingness/nonexistence is the ultimate reality. Nihilism's truths include loneliness, despair, self-loathing and the finality of death, all wrapped in an anti-everything attitude. But while Reznor sang/screamed such cheerless lyrics as "I hate myself" and "I don't care anymore," NIN at The Can wasn't a heady seminar. It was an arena-rock concert - and a fine one at that, with inventive use of lights and other visuals.

In addition to selections from "The Fragile," Nine Inch Nails performed "March of the Pigs" and "Piggy" from the highly regarded "Downward Spiral" CD as well as "Gave Up" from the 1992 EP "Broken." Musically, the Nails delivered a tight, well-honed, machine-gun sonic barrage on hard-edged material like "Wish" (a crowd fave) and "Terrible Lie."

A consummate performer skilled in theatrics, Reznor sexily writhed under silhouette lighting on the hit "Closer." On "Sin," from 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine," Reznor desperately clung to the back of lead guitarist Robin Finck, then shoved him off the stage and into the audience, where Finck crowdsurfed as fans roared with approval.

Reznor managed to change his look over the course of the evening. Reznor initially wore ghoulish white face paint plus black lipstick and heavy eye makeup, but his penchant for dousing himself with bottles of spring water soon washed away the cosmetics and left the dark-haired, muscular, good-looking star sporting the wet look, with the front of his shirt and tight pants totally soaked by the end of the show.

On Nine Inch Nails' records, Reznor plays nearly all the instruments. At Pepsi Center, Reznor frequently performed on guitar ("The Day the World Went Away") and keyboards ("The Frail"), and he played bass on a couple of hard-driving jams.

Live, Nails features four musicians besides Reznor, including drummer Jerome Dillon, who deftly handled complex time-signature changes on "La Mer," and multi-instrumentalist Danny Lohner, who split his time between keyboards, bass and guitar.

NIN CDs are noted for their continuity - one track typically flows right into the next. The Nails took that approach in concert, too, playing songs in rapid-fire succession. Of course, that didn't leave Reznor much time for chit-chat between tunes. In fact, he rarely spoke to the crowd, and when he did at the start of the encore, the nihilist spoke in a melancholy tone.

"This is the last day of the tour and we're all kind of weirded out about it. Thanks for being there for us," Reznor said to the crowd.

One logical conclusion of nihilistic philosophy is destruction. Near the end of the main set, someone onstage emptied a bottle of water all over Lohner's electronic keyboard as he soloed. Lohner then yanked the instrument off its stand and smashed it against things, breaking the keyboard into pieces. A little later, on "Head Like a Hole," Reznor smacked his guitar into his mic stand - more bits of things went flying - while Dillon knocked over his drum kit.

Despite its bleak outlook, nihilism doesn't require that existence end badly, unhappily or violently. When Nine Inch Nails' five-song encore concluded with the relatively soft (for NIN) "Hurt," folks held lighters in the air and swayed as Reznor used the song's breaks to convey his emotions.

It turns out NIN are nice guys, if we're to believe Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of opening band A Perfect Circle (and also of Tool). "We're an opening act," Keenan said to the audience before complimenting the Nails. "They didn't have to treat us well (on the tour), but they did."

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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.