Review of Nine Inch Nails @ Brixton Academy, London (Nov 29, 1999)
Trent Reznor lays his soul bare for London.
Most people read about Atari Teenage Riot long before they hear the Berlin quartet's music. All the
German berserkers' "the system is f**ked" and "we want action" quotes give the impression that
this is a band you simply have to see. And anyone who makes the slightest criticism of ATR is
patronisingly told that they just don't "get" the band. Well, sorry, but tonight ATR are utter shite.
Chin-strokers might make a case for the band's white noise being the final death rattle of a
corrupt society, but you get the impression that Alec Empire merely wants to f**k all the Goths – a
commendable mission, but a bloody tedious one. For 25 minutes Empire and Nic Endo drag
screeching monotone feedback from their sequencers and decks, while MC Carl Crack staggers
about like a student who's just had his first pint at an indie disco. Oh, the anarchy of it all… "Atari
Teenage Minor Scuffle," someone mutters behind me perceptively.
And so to Trent Reznor's Electro-Goth Taste The Pain Roadshow. From the moment that
Generation X's very own Gary Numan begins wailing that he's 'too f**cked up to care anymore'
over the clattering death-pop of 'Something Damaged' [sic], we know we're in for a hugely
enjoyable, none-more-bleak experience.
There is nothing small scale about NIN live: this is Grand Guignol horror on an epic scale, a
bombastic parade of bitter words, broken dreams and aching hurt. The staccato stomp of 'March
Of The Pigs' and the blistering 'Starf**kers, Inc.' are dizzying head-f**k blasts of strobes, synths
and screams, 'Into The Void' is all martial beats and little-boy-lost anguish, and 'Sin' is a
rough-as-sandpaper, S&M cluster-f**k soundtrack. Even when Reznor strips away the layers,
accompanying the exquisite, tinkling delicacy of 'La Mer' and 'The Great Below' with video footage
of oceans, clouds and balletically dividing human cells, it has an intensity which makes you hold
your breath in nervy fear. It's a perfectly paced, masterful performance.
In the closing minutes, London is treated to a ragingly propulsive 'Head Like A Hole' and the
animalistic 'Closer', but tonight was always going to transcend the traditional 'greatest hits' rock gig.
Not since Courtney Love tottered across this same stage in June has there been such a feeling of
rapture at a London gig.
Reznor might not be the Messiah, but no one else offers such compelling, harrowing and lucid
visions of Heaven and Hell.
Words: Paul Brannigan
Transcribed for The NIN Hotline by node_girl.
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.