NINE INCH NAILS - London Brixton Academy - 11 December 1999
LET NO-ONE LiVE TRENT FREE!
He looks like Bruce Springsteen. No, he really does: there's the
torn capped sleeves, relvealing
arm muscles like small animals. A fist punching holes in dry ice,
knees bent precisely so, poised for
might. Or flight. Like so many Nine Inch Nails' mixed messages,
it's hard to tell.
The songs too, are straight outta Heartland, USA, but it's
heartland that has shifted, grown
darker in a decade; less car mechanic, and more mortuary assistant.
Maybe it's therapy culture
that's ultimately responsible for all these sportz-goth-metal
outpourings, the children of the
headshrunk getting stuck at primal screaming, but there's no doubt
whose fault the American musical
obsession with negativity is. It's his. Trent took the hurt and made
it mainstream, and – after four
years of not getting out much – he's airing his soiled linen
in public again.
This is our first audience since 1994 with the High Priest Of
Pain, The Boss Of Bummed Out,
and one gratifyingly filled with early-'90s emotions. The night's
more wicked turns date back to
when NIN were cousins to Depeche Mode and wore fishnet tights on
their skinny forearms. So
'Terrible Lie' with its Euro-synth melody, and 'Sin' – all
Theramin'n'hi-NRG bopping – revisit Trent's
original sense of sleazy electronic fun, before The Great
Seriousness banished such Eurofag
fripperies and made him huge. Now, after a few weights sessions, NIN
share guitarists with Axl
Rose and have lights shaped like nails.
But even if the bulk of tonight's group purge is made up of
bombastic declarations of woe like
'The Great Below' (off the new, double dose of grimness 'The
Fragile') or the two-fingered,
no-brain riff Olympics of 'Starfuckers Inc', Reznor's still more
refined than your average rock pig.
He's arty enough to obscure to obscure himself behind a screen
projecting graceful images of natural
wonders. He dallies with instrumentals and shards of experimental
cricket noise. This, after all, is a
man whose Nothing label licenses Warp releases in the
But – an anthemic 'Head Like A Hole' apart – tonight's sickest
thrills come when Reznor's
opposite instincts cuddle up. 'Closer' staggers in under the weight
of its industrial sexx-bass,
pulsating maliciously. But when Trent hollers, "I WANT TO FUCK YOU
LIKE AN ANIMAL",
the rest of the Nails break into priceless backing "doot doot doos",
worthy of The Shirelles. The
man is twisted, see, like guts or bedsheets. But sometimes,
too, like a smile.
Review: Kitty Empire
Transcribed by node_girl for the NIN hotline.
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.