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Nine Inch Nails
...""Plays with Passion"
6/7/00 San Francisco.
......It was a
long winter for Trent Reznor - more than two years holed up in his New Orleans
studio, a former funeral parlor, crafting the follow-up to Nine Inch Nails'
magnum opus, "The Downward Spiral." Not that he was uncomfortable
there. Reznor is the quintessential creative loner, an artist who plumbs the
depths of his psyche and drags out all the messiness he finds there.
But the man who made industrial music palatable for the masses - detonating
classic pop hooks with three-ton explosives - is on the concert trail. Upon its
release in September, "The Fragile" fetched mixed reviews from
critics and fans; at two discs and 23 tracks, the incessantly layered, wildly
lurching album was tough to digest. The five-year gap between Nine Inch Nails
albums wasn't merely a product of the artist's legendary perfectionism
Expanding his one-man outfit to a ferocious five-piece ensemble, Reznor and
company made their first San Francisco appearance in nearly five years.
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. This was not just a concert,
this was performance art. Reznor has assembled what may be his best version of
the Nails yet -- at least onstage. Guitarist Robin Finck was a particular
standout, able to adapt his playing to any mood associated with Reznor's
eclectically stylized catalog of songs. With a name like Nine Inch Nails,
certain standards of pain, loathing and disgust must be maintained. And for
years, Trent Reznor and his touring band of assassins have been reliably
driving spikes of wrath into impressionable young psyches. But the seething
contempt for everything that moves, it turns out, is a shield for far deeper
emotions; when Reznor let his audience look behind his armor plating over
Wednesday night at the Cow Palace, the view was startling. 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/keyboardist 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." They weren't
just pushing the new product, they were creating a living, breathing musical
novel, the songs fit that seamlessly. And really, maybe the most remarkable
aspect of Wednesday night's show was how Nine Inch Nails, a group famed for
their articulate expressions of angst and loneliness that could leave a full
house wandering out into the rain smiling as though they had just seen a show
to be remember always.
By Randy Cohen
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Trent Reznor- Vocal's
His band (keyboardist Charlie Clouser, guitarist Robin
Finck, bassist Danny Lohner, and drummer Jerome Dillon),