Sonicnet News

April 2000

Nine Inch Nails Stylishly Mix Anthems With Soundscapes Ecological videos add to mystifying ambiance on industrial band's spring tour.

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor may have growled "too f---ed up to care anymore" during the opening song of Friday night's concert at the UIC Pavilion, but the 90-minute set that followed was laced with thought and precision. The band's Fragility v2.0 tour was just that — a delicately arranged set of stadium-rock anthems stylishly intertwined with instrumental soundscapes and omnipresent lighting.

Reznor's angst-laden tunes served as a sharp contrast to the show's mystifying ambiance — a sold-out, alcohol-free concert with a mosh pit more focused on the ecological videos streaming on giant screens than on the pit itself.

"Somewhat Damaged" (RealAudio excerpt), the first song on Nine Inch Nails' 1999 album, The Fragile, set the evening off on a unique note as the band ripped through the tune behind a massive stage curtain. With strobe lights buzzing, white-on-black silhouettes flashed frantically as the crowd roared.

The curtain opened to the crisp beat of "Terrible Lie," from the group's 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor, adorned in a silver velvet vest and tight black pants, his thick, black locks shaped like a bowl, looked like a gothic Fred Flintstone.

He raced around the stage, tackling his face-painted guitarists and violently dousing them, the audience and himself with bottle after bottle of Evian water. Call it a baptism into his dark world; the ceremonious drenching didn't seem to faze a soul.

A Decade's Work Well-Represented The cavernlike stage was lined with huge white lights, courtesy of Mark Brickman, a former Pink Floyd light designer. These electrifying bulbs went crazy as the Nails ventured into "March of the Pigs," an intense up-and-down number from their breakthrough 1995 album The Downward Spiral.

Poetically, Reznor led that song into "Piggy," a ballad from the same album, which he ended in a long, winding piano solo.

The group showcased songs from its decade-plus history, dating back to the early EPs Suck and Fist Fuck and leading up to "The Day the World Went Away," from The Fragile.

Between hard-rock songs, Reznor orchestrated his band through Fragile interludes such as "The Frail," "The Great Below" and "A Warm Place," which brought out the fury of his heavy numbers even more.

Absent, however, were the Nails live standards "The Perfect Drug," "Happiness in Slavery," and Queen's "Get Down Make Love," along with the recent single "We're in This Together."

Gloom, Doom And Manson

Closing the set, the band served up the one-two punch of "Closer," which sounded dead-on like the Spiral version, and "Head Like a Hole" (RealAudio excerpt). The latter proved to be the obvious crowd favorite, as fans sang over Reznor the chorus of "Head like a hole/ Black as your soul/ I'd rather die/ Than leave you control." Reznor marched his troops back onstage for an encore that included the Fragile favorite "Starfuckers, Inc." (RealAudio excerpt) which, in a rare explanation, he said was dedicated to "an ex-friend of mine," most likely meaning his protégé Marilyn Manson. As an unlikely twist, the group closed out the evening with "Hurt," a slow, pulsating song that found Reznor aching through dark lines like "I wear this crown of sh--/ Upon my liar's chair/ Full of broken thoughts/ I cannot repair."

"It was the perfect ending to an emotional concert," Stuart May, 23, of Des Moines, Iowa, said. "I drove five hours to hear 'Hurt' and I was blown away when they closed with it."

Samantha Kilber, 16, of Chicago had similar feelings about "Head Like a Hole." "It was the first Nine Inch Nails song I ever heard, so it meant a lot to see them play it live," Kilber said. " I loved everything about the show."

Opening the concert was A Perfect Circle, the side project of Tool singer Maynard Keenan. The post-grunge quartet jammed through a 30-minute set of melodic rockers, including the current single, "Judith." "I like Tool and probably would have liked them, but I didn't know any of their songs," May said of A Perfect Circle. "It just made Nine Inch Nails seem even better."

The Fragility v2.0 tour ends June 18 in Denver.

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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.