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Nine Inch Nails: Technology and Desire


The band began with "Mr. Self-Destruct" while still inside the curtain, lights and smoke throwing the members' shadows all across the canopy. But it wasn't until the curtain rose on Trent Reznor pleading and screaming through "Love Is Not Enough" and "Terrible Lie" that the crowd also built up a head of steam, writhing in seats or on their feet.

Reznor writes in the language of desperate, hopeless desire, and the lost piano notes that accompany high-voltage guitar noise is the kind of thing that, well, inflames the senses.

I was convinced that time and touring hadn't affected NIN's potency 20 minutes in by Reznor's performance of "March of the Pigs," stumbling around the stage, kicking and throwing water into the audience. I felt like biting the throat out of something and then mating with it, more or less. Tying the threads of savagery and sex together, Reznor, with his newly shaved head, climbed on the back of the stage for "Closer" and bathed in red light and smoke before a series of staggered screens, which were jagged and arranged like keys, or teeth, and humming with multicolored static.

At 40, Reznor's still agile enough to climb all around, switch instruments and throw microphones into the audience. The band's been touring for a year now in support of 2005's "With Teeth," and it's still sharp. And they're apparently enjoying their stint on the road: Reznor announced that NIN's extending the tour and partnering with Bauhaus.

The curtain returned in the second half of the show, and a succession of images and film fragments was projected onto it throughout the long, ominous drone of "Eraser." Man-sized microbes swam across the screen, followed by giant minnows, birds, wildebeests, butterflies, ants, bees, and waving grasses: all the multitudes. Then money, oil, soldiers, missiles, tanks, George W. Bush dancing with Laura, explosions, victims of war, dancers in black tie: the obscenity of masses. The kid in front of me watched the screen through a small pair of binoculars. Reznor appeared behind the curtain, tiny in a spotlight, for "Right Where It Belongs," and a rain of static projected during "Beside You in Time."

He fell into the standing crowd during "Piggy," held aloft and surrounded by the tiny square eyes of cell phones snapping pictures. Sometime during the desolate piano plonks of "Every Day Is Exactly the Same," as a desert scene crawled across the screen behind the band, the kid fell asleep, sprawled across two seats.

Reznor played the slow lament of "Hurt" before a field of lighters and their spawn, the glowing face of camera phones. Moving evenly between albums, the band ended the night with the radio-swarmed "Only" and shook loose the mortar of nostalgia with "Head Like a Hole." Then the young dad woke up his kid and we all went home. S

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