Nine Inch Nails: rocks the phonies out of Kemper
Who: Nine Inch Nails with A Perfect Circle
Where: Kemper Arena
When: Sunday, May 28
Audience: 6,400 (approx.)
Nine Inch Nails rocks the phonies out of Kemper
Today's music scene has largely degenerated into an
of interchangeable pretty boys and glamour girls,
dancing their way through toothless r&b written by
But Sunday at Kemper Arena, Nine Inch Nails exorcised the
demons of the venue's Rickys and Backstreets past,
a sonic sturm und drang that took no prisoners. For 75
band painted a cathartic picture of darkness and despair,
audience spent yet screaming for more.
Nine Inch Nails' recorded output is essentially the
songwriter Trent Reznor, who has collaborated with a
lineup of musicians and producers to create his three
albums. But in its touring incarnation, NIN becomes a
band that interprets its synthetic material organically.
Electronic-based music is always a tricky proposition in
setting. The robotic polyrhythms of sequenced drums and
synthesizers can easily overwhelm a live performer,
making a show
seem canned and lifeless. Reznor and company's energy and
easily avoided this trap, deftly incorporating the
and clicks into one solid soundscape.
The band's current "Fragility v 2.0" tour is in support
of the 1999
album "The Fragile," yet Reznor chose to play an
songs from throughout his 11-year career. Performing
semi-opaque main drape, NIN began the show with "Somewhat
Damaged," the opening track to "The Fragile." On the
song is a mixture of inhumanly accurate acoustic
instruments, set to
the rigid precision of a gurgling synthesizer bass line.
As with the
other numbers of the concert, though, the band has
studio version of the song for live performance.
guitars and live drums dominated instrumentally, while
with an open-throated bellow quite unlike his constricted
on the recording.
The curtain then parted to reveal the band, caked with
cornstarch and dressed in post-military garb. With his
pageboy haircut, angular features and ghostly pale
looked like a villain from a Fritz Lang film as he and
the band tore
into "Terrible Lie," from 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine."
audience bounded up and down in unison, pounding fists
into the air
along to the song's deliberate, rhythmic blasts.
Even though Nine Inch Nails is primarily known for the
and raw power of its most brutal moments, the concert
much of that power comes from its creator's keen sense of
When Reznor held the audience rapt throughout "The
Frail," a quiet
instrumental that recalls Erik Satie at his most minimal
and sedate, it
became clear that his music is very different from the
Slipknot or Rammstein. The mood then morphed into the
rolling gait of "The Wretched," one of Reznor's most
hard-edged songs, and the definite musical highlight of
The band ended the show with an encore consisting of the
throb of "The Day the World Went Away" and the quiet,
"Hurt." The cornstarch now washed away by sweat, this was
Reznor at his most human. With the lyric "Everyone I know
away in the end," he made a poignant connection with
has ever felt picked upon or alone.
Visually, "Fragility v 2.0" was remarkably varied and
throughout. Three mobile LED video screens sometimes
impressionistic films, as in the plaintive ode to
drowning "The Great
Below." Other times they became solid fields of light and
behind the musicians. Much of Nine Inch Nails' music
digital samples of sound that have been purposely
quality, resulting in a low-resolution version of
the performers standing in front of the rows of LED
in a rough, jagged silhouette that approximated the
appearance of a low-resolution computer image.
Supporting Nine Inch Nails was A Perfect Circle, the new
Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool. The band
50-minute set of hard rock that had something of the
flavor of Tool,
but with a more melodic bent. Its performance was capable
energetic, although Keenan's microphone was not turned up
to make the lyrics comprehensible during the louder
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.