Nine Inch Nails go the whole 9 yards. - Tokyo Bay NK Hall, January 11
If someone were to fashion a guitar out of barbed wire, lead pipes and an
acetylene blowtorch, Trent Reznor would be the man to play it--with a razor
blade pick. He'd probably get some decent sounds out of it, too. Reznor,
and his band, Nine Inch Nails, followed their long and whining road of
macabre discontent to Japan last week for three high-energy shows.
After a decade of touring together, the members of NIN have learned how
to pull a scorching performance out of Reznor's dark, twisted orchestrations
of pain and introspection. With the requisite smoke machines, retina-burning
lasers and trippy visuals, they stomped and slammed through nearly two
hours of old and new material for a enthusiastic crowd.
Reznor is the angst-ridden man and creative force behind Nine Inch Nails,
the industrial rock band that 10 years ago made it OK to be goth, or so the
black-clad, mascaraed masses that screamed along with NIN's 1989 debut
Pretty Hate Machine would tell you.
In the studio, Reznor is NIN. He writes, arranges, performs and produces
all the material for the band's albums, employing other musicians only for his
road show. They toured extensively in support of Pretty Hate Machine, a
three-year odyssey that saw them on stage for the first Lollapalooza tour
and opening for Guns 'n' Roses in Europe.
The band is currently touring in support of last year's The Fragile, a double
album filled with the changes one would expect of a man who hadn't
released anything new in five years. Reznor's last offering was 1995's
Further Down the Spiral, a collection of remixes from the 1994 release The
Downward Spiral. Perky titles, aren't they?
Like his prodigy Marilyn Manson (Reznor was instrumental in Manson's rise
to fame and coproduced Antichrist Superstar, the album that made Mason),
Reznor is a product of small-town America. He was raised by his
grandmother in Mercer, Pa., after his parents separated. As a teen, he
traded in the classical piano he had studied as a child for basically every
instrument that's ever been plugged into a power source and started playing
in various garage bands.
He tried college for a year, but it didn't stick, so he moved to Cleveland,
Ohio, and began recording his own music. A demo tape led to a deal with a
small label, which led to Pretty Hate Machine, which led to the industrial
music revolution on college campuses in the early '90s and a rapid rise to
mega-stardom that took its toll on Reznor.
Of course, Reznor invited much of the scrutiny himself. He was investigated
for the "Down in It" video, which the FBI suspected contained images that
had been taken from a snuff film. He released an EP, Broken, in 1992, and
one of the accompanying videos portrayed a man being sexually assaulted
and ground into hamburger meat. And those are the videos that weren't
rejected by MTV.
But that was all 10 years ago and Reznor, now 34, has mellowed with age,
if only slightly. He told the crowd in Tokyo last week before the start of his
encore, "I feel I may be ruining my image by saying this, but it's been a
pleasure to be here. You've been a great audience. Now don't tell anyone I
He even went so far as to thank his bandmates for their friendship and for
being "the best band in the world," genuine niceties, even if overstated.
Maybe the irony of venting his somber visions of the world in an auditorium
located right next to Disneyland injected him with a little bit of Magic
The concert consisted mostly of NIN's newer material--broad, sometimes
minimalist songs culled from The Fragile. Reznor spent two years making the
new album, and it shows. The lyrics, although again darkly introspective, are
more gently crafted than before. The songs still force their way into your
head, but once there, instead of hammering away at the inside of your skull
like NIN's previous releases, they settle down to reveal the intricate
arrangements Reznor spent so long assembling in the studio.
This doesn't always translate well in the live show, though. The band went to
great lengths to make sure even the slower songs were still noisy enough to
please the most dissatisfied of fans. But when relatively gentle keyboard
tracks were forced through various chorus effects and distortion pedals, they
often came out sounding more like whale mating songs played full blast
through an AM radio with blown speakers. Painful.
But more often than not, Nine Inch Nails did what they were supposed to
do: lay down stomach-churning industrial rock for the fans to slam to and
Reznor to scream to. The highlight of the night was "Head Like a Hole," a
song from Pretty Hate Machine that became an anthem of sorts for millions
of rebels without a cause with its middle-finger-up chorus "Head like a
hole/Black as your soul/I'd rather die/Than give you control."
And 10 years on, Reznor still screams it like he means it.
Bill Bradley Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.