The Indianapolis Star

April 2000

Reznor's despair takes back seat in awe-inspiring show

Nine Inch Nails
4/20/00 Conseco Fieldhouse
3 and a half stars

Excluding Creed's recent volume-for-the-sake-of-stupidity performance at Conseco Fieldhouse, Nine Inch Nails on Thursday deployed the loudest rock show in the building's young history.

It was awe-inspiring on that level, but perhaps even better when Trent Reznor's band went the sensitive route.

Raucous or quiet, Reznor gave the undersized audience of 8,000 a show visually, physically and sonically superior to nearly all touring productions.

The lighting design was an impressive achievement, as a trio of movable LED screens served as both a medium for video and illumination. Also in motion were lengthy banks of conventional lights.

Band members zig-zagged chaotically across the shadowy stage. In trademark NIN fashion, both keyboards and musicians were abused.

And to the ears, the songs sounded great - from the keep-disco-evil anthem Sin to the bladerunner blues of Piggy to the full-on metal of The Wretched.

Lyrically, about all one needs to know is that Reznor's song publishing company is called Leaving Hope Music.

He's achieved fame and fortune by singing about gloom, despair and agony - a formula to which clings too tightly on the 1999 album The Fragile.

In concert, he played just a handful of songs from the double album, a dismal cul-de-sac that diminishes the impact of 1994's masterful concept album, The Downward Spiral.

Tellingly, many of The Fragile's live selections were instumentals.

The essentially wordless La Mer and The Mark Has Been Made framed The Great Below during a gripping water/fire trilogy that spanned Nine Inch Nails' tender-to-bone-jarring strengths.

It's smart on Reznor's part to bypass the pitiful self-loathing that dominates the two discs of The Fragile, where tired code words repeat, collide and turn back on themselves deep in the territory of self-parody.

Unlike Korn, a band that manages to convey a spirit of celebration and community within its tales of alienation, Reznor comes across as being self-immersed and emotionally paralyzed.

The concert-opening Somewhat Damaged includes the most compelling lyrics of The Fragile; "Lick around divine debris. Taste the wealth of hate in me. Shedding skin, succumb defeat. This machine is obsolete."

Oh, yes...obsolescence - the current rallying point for '90s superstars suck as Reznor and the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan.

Perhaps Reznor, who feels commercially sucker-punched by Boy Bands and Britney, can find inspiration in something other than his misery.

An attempt to find the way out - whether he succeeds of fails - would make a great starting point.

Transcribed for The NIN Hotline by mokeejc

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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.