New York Daily News

May 2000

Trent Reznor Really Nails It at the Garden

It's no mean feat to make riffs swing when they're as dense as cement. But the industrial/metal/goth band Nine Inch Nails managed to keep even its weightiest chords and creepiest beats fleet at its first New York show in five years, which pounded the Garden Tuesday.

In every way that the Nails' latest album, "The Fragile," meanders, this show soared. While head Nail Trent Reznor has been fashioning an increasingly self-involved and difficult sound in the studio (having created his hermetically sealed albums almost entirely by himself), in concert he made his dark style rousing, aided by four sadistically skilled musicians. They helped give Reznor's material greater momentum than at any show I've witnessed by him in the band's 10-year history.

They benefited from killingly clear sound, which kept each shredded riff and momentous beat distinct. In the opening version of 1991's "Terrible Lie," the group's chattering rhythms moved with dizzying speed, while in 1994's "Pigs," the guitar riffs seemed sharp enough to cut the hall in half.

By mingling material from all of Nails' albums, the evening displayed the range of Reznor's influences. His pieces offer a fresh nexus of the art-rock of Pink Floyd, the industrial maw of Ministry, the heaving metal of Black Sabbath and the gothic beats of Depeche Mode. While "The Fragile" leans towards Reznor's art-rock side, the show pushed his closeness to club music.

Depression never seemed so danceable.

Lyrically, Reznor favors repetitious, emphatic outbursts like "Why are you doing this to me?" or, simply, "I hate everyone." His point of view has brightened slightly for "The Fragile," but Reznor's lyrical forte is still to provide the verbal equivalent of primal scream therapy.

His dank music found a strong corollary in the sinister staging. In one segment, white lights hung low enough to make the stage glow. In another, monolithic video screens tricked up images of ocean water to look as thick as lava.

The evening even included a fun reconciliation. Marilyn Manson, originally a protégé of Reznor, had became a foe several years back, a fact underscored by Reznor's song "Starf---er Inc." At the Garden, the two ghouls finally retracted their fangs. Manson showed up to shriek the chorus of the number, then offered a pummeling version of his "Beautiful People," backed by a better band than he has ever employed.

Amid today's sunny pop scene, dominated by toothy teen stars, it was especially refreshing to witness artists of such dark power in their prime.

As an opening act, the evening featured the New York debut of A Perfect Circle, the new band from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. The group's LP won't arrive until May 23, but their sound seemed familiar: much like Tool, only a little less arty. Essentially, they cleaned up the old group's avant-metal sound with more melody. Which just makes one think: With a style so close to Tool, why form an offshoot band at all?

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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.