Driven to succeed
Unlike America's most prominent political leader, Trent Reznor has
ever, claimed to feel your pain.
But the lead singer and musical mastermind of Nine Inch Nails -- still
mightiest industrial-rock band in the land after 11 years -- clearly
own pain, as he and his four-man band's charged Saturday night
at SDSU's Cox Arena vividly demonstrated.
Reznor reiterated this point during a revamped version of "Hurt," which
served as the fourth and final selection of the 94-minute concert's
A deeply moving anthem of existential despair, it provided a stirring
coda to his anguished musical march down what Bob Dylan might now call
neo-desolation row. In a hushed, plaintive voice, Reznor sang: I focus
pain / The only thing that's real.
He expresses the pain of his troubled, dysfunctional existence so
and with such soul-searing intensity, that tortured young (and not so
souls everywhere have embraced his conflicted emotions and dread-filled
music as their own.
At least they did up until the mid-1990s, a time when Nine Inch Nails
millions of albums and could easily fill such cavernous venues as the
Diego Sports Arena (as the group did in late-1994).
But times and tastes change. And while Nine Inch Nails' most recent
last year's two-CD set, "The Fragile," is Reznor's most ambitious,
and rewarding work yet, the public response has been decidedly
To date, the critically acclaimed "The Fragile" has sold just over
copies, and has completely dropped off the national album charts.
several million less than its predecessor, 1994's "The Downward
wrenching aural chronicle of Reznor's rock-bottom descent into
and debilitating nihilism.
Reflecting this commercial downward spiral, Saturday's SDSU show drew
just 5,060 fans, barely half the number that attended his group's
gig six years ago.
Undaunted, he and his band are performing better -- and with greater
determination and focus -- than ever on their current tour. So much so,
that their decline from prominence seems to have only strengthened
resolve in this vision-challenged era of teen-pop confectioners,
hip-hop charlatans and rap-rocking white-trash lunkheads.
Accordingly, Reznor and company performed with liberating power and
calibrated precision Saturday. Taking to the stage after a promising
set by the moody Tool-offshoot band A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails
delivered even its most pulverizing numbers with finesse and a
command of dynamic tension and release.
The concert's electrifying opening salvo was provided by "Terrible Lie"
"Sin," two rock-and-roil classics from "Pretty Hate Machine," the 1989
album that put Nine Inch Nails and industrial-rock on the map.
"March of the Pigs" and "Reptile," which followed, were even more
as drummer Jerome Dillon laid down pile-driving backbeats marked by
As strong as these first four songs were, they harkened back to the
volatile musical past of Nine Inch Nails, whose studio albums are
one-man affairs by Reznor.
"The Frail" and "The Wretched," which came next, represented the
musically fertile present. They also showcased Reznor and company's
growing command of textural shading and understatement, even in the
of an aural attack that was ear-numbingly loud but consistently crisp
The six other selections from "The Fragile" featured Saturday pointed
artistically promising future, one in which Reznor's terminal Angst and
self-loathing are balanced by a welcome sense of hope, however
Moreover, the material performed from "The Fragile," in particular the
dreamlike "La Mer" and "The Great Below," suggested that nuance and
delicacy may eventually rival sonic explosions and implosions as
most potent musical weapons. And the striking visual images by video
Bill Viola -- which appeared on three light-crystal display (LED)
above the band -- contasted very well with the rapid-fire strobe lights
dominated other parts of the concert.
As on previous tours, Reznor and his band mates still utilize the
sequenced, high-tech drum and bass loops that are a trademark of Nine
Nails postmodern rock style. But where the group once seemed to be
providing live augmentation for its prerecorded tapes on stage, that
has now been reversed, resulting in a fuller, more organic sound.
With the exception of the Marilyn Manson-bashing rave-up "Starsuckers"
the similarly titled song from "The Fragile" was retitled when released
single), Saturday's audience generally reacted more enthusiastically to
proven favorites as "Closer" and "Head Like a Hole" than to the newer,
overt material from "The Fragile."
But musical catharsis can come in many forms, and Trent Reznor has
decided to prove that the dramatic silences between his musical
can be just as effective.
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is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously
located at SUS.