The Post-Dispatch

May 2000

Loud, rain-soaked crowd welcomes visceral sound of Nine Inch Nails

For a certain gloomy subset of local youth culture, Nine Inch Nails' gig Saturday at Riverport was a highly anticipated show.

Trent Reznor and his brood of unmerry men are notorious for blistering live performances, and this was Nine Inch Nails' first headlining tour in over five years. The tour is supporting the group's first new album in nearly six years, "The Fragile."

A palpable tension exploded like a pipe bomb when the first notes of "Pinion" cut through the rain-soaked crowd, then the band emerged wraithlike on the stage to play its concert-opening standard, "Terrible Lie." Reznor and company played four consecutive songs from their first album, "Pretty Hate Machine." Eleven years after the album's release, the songs were as visceral as ever.

A dizzying barrage of lights popped and exploded in time with the machine gun fire of Jerome Dillon's drums. The first sign of color in the stage presentation wasn't until Nine Inch Nails first tread on new musical ground with "The Wretched." Guitarist Robin Finck and bassist Danny Lohner put their instruments at war as a wash of sickly blue and green lights glimmered overhead.

The Nails marched forward to an instrumental, "La Mer," transfixing the audience with a delicate melody that was a surprising departure from the aggressive, depressive music that made the band famous.

For a couple of songs, the music functioned like a soundtrack as three giant screens displayed images of fields, flames and crashing ocean waves.

After this extended submersion into the depths, Reznor resurrected the rage with "Suck," a song he wrote with the band Pigface. The fans got even louder as the band was bathed in red light for the sinister hit "Closer." Then the stage reverted to white light to match the white noise of the song that put NIN on the map, "Head Like a Hole," which they played with a fury that shook the ground.

After a 10-minute break, Nine Inch Nails played a dirge-like encore of "The Day the World Went Away." Pulling the emotional roller coaster into the station, the band eased into a cathartic finale of "Hurt."

Opening the show, Maynard James Keenan of Tool debuted his new band, A Perfect Circle. The band played well, with the driving force emanating from Billy Howerdel's guitar. But the NIN fans were primed for the headliner, and the Tool fans were uninterested in a substitute. Even Keenan's 2-foot brown wig couldn't win them over. The audience didn't respond to A Perfect Circle on its own terms until the band played the single "Judith," which turned out to be the band's last song of the evening.

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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.