The Trocadero Philadelphia, PA
Performance beyond my wildest expectations. I
thought I‘d be able to write the review without entering the Trocadero. “Nine
Inch Nails were pretty good, better than Jesus and Mary Chain who played a
short, boring set.“ I had to throw away prejudices and preconceived notions. As
fine a debut as Pretty Hate Machine is, I couldn‘t imagine how utterly
explosive Trent Reznor and Company would be onstage. Five studios, five
producers and only one permanent band member on an album isn‘t the standard
formula for a burning live act, but Nine Inch Nails burned the formulas.
Meanwhile, Jesus and Mary Chain ruined their contender status in their “Worst
Band Ever to Stand Before an Audience“ campaign.
As astute sculpture professor of mine once explained
that there‘s a tremendous difference between thinking that painting, writing,
writing music or sculpting is a nice thing to do and needing to paint, write,
or sculpt. Trent Reznor obviously views performance as more than a pleasant way
to pass the time. If he didn‘t have the creative outlet of Nine Inch Nails, I‘d
hate to think how‘d he‘d deal with the destructive forces of life. He raged
with obsession and aggression counterbalanced against and punctuated by
subduement that attenuated the contrast.
Starting with ‘Terrible Lie‘, NIN bombarded the
senses through an eight song, forty-minute set. Richard Patrick and Trent
careened off one another. They spit and threw beer at each other and the
audience. ‘Sanctified‘ blinded like pure white light with its minimalism. Trent vaguely rapped into ‘Down In It‘;
after a funky keyboard jam, he drained it to a whisper only to recharge it and
elevate it to new heights.
Numbers like ‘That‘s What I Get‘ had all the
angst of the Smiths without Morrissey‘s self-absorbed whine. As if to prove
that he‘s human and that a sense of humor underlies the tension, Trent made
some visual masturbation jokes with a beer bottle, eliminating any temptation to
call out, “Lighten up, will ya!“
If Gary Numan aspired to be Johnny Rouen
instead of David Bowie, he would have become keyboardist Nick Rushe. Even with
a danceable beat, the music obliterated any memories of early ‘80‘s techno-pop
synthesizers as cold or wimpy. ‘Ringfinger‘ evolved from sweet and DepecheModal
to grating and grinding through the help of a wallop of drums and a shearing,
searing guitar solo.
It doesn‘t get much better than this. With the
guitar situation for the God fathers up in the air following Kris Dollimore‘s
departure, NINM could become my favorite new band.
Between sets we joke about Jesus and Mary Chain‘s
less than stellar live reputation. “Don‘t blink; you‘ll miss their entire
show.“ It was a false bad omen when the lights dimmed and taped music played as
a soundtrack to a film of spliced Pop culture images. Maybe they wouldn‘t
bother to come out on stage. Why did they put the roadies to the trouble of
setting up instruments just to have the drums collect dust?
The Mary Chain rapidly remedied the situation.
The Reid Brothers may have had obscenities written on the backs of their shirts,
but I couldn‘t tell. The band faced the audience. Jim Reid showed signs of
charisma, playing around with the mike stand and such, but he did blow the
lyrics to ‘Blues From a Gun.‘
Overall, their performance embodied drugs, sex
and delirium. It was so completely intoxicating that it didn‘t feel like a
no-alcohol show (The $1.50 charge for a glass of water was an ugly reminder,
though.). Parts of ‘Head On‘ accurately depicted the scene they created: “The
way I feel tonight, I couldn‘t die and I wouldn‘t mind... I can‘t stand up / I
can‘t cool down/ I can‘t get my head on the ground.“ They turned the crowd into
a throbbing, heaving mass. I was drenched in sweat. But I‘m not sure whose
sweat it was. To paraphrase a line from This Is Spinal Tap, you can‘t dust for
sweat. The all-ages crowd was young enough to display enthusiasm, but no
ankle-biters got under foot like they did at the New Order/ PiL/ Sugarcubes
show. No one squealed. In the great R.E.M. tradition of ignoring the
break-through single, they omitted ‘Just Like Honey.‘ Both bands deserved
credit for not mindlessly pandering to concert convention. The drone,
stretching across their career from ‘The Hardest Walk‘ to numerous selections
from Automatic, was unified but not monotonous. ‘Head On‘ hinted at the Beach
Boys breaking into a cover of New Order‘s ‘Age of Consent.‘ ‘Kill Surf City‘ revealed stronger blonde, tanned,
Southern Californian tendencies from the pale, brunette Scots. They slowed Bo
Diddley‘s ‘Who Do You Love‘ to a sensual, gripping speed. George Throughgood
should take their lessons in reclaiming, rather than imitating, rock standards.
The reports of the Psychocandy tour were fifteen
boring minutes of boring feedback with their backs to the crowd, and up to a
half hour for Darklands. When the palsied Christie Brown first scrawled
“Mother“ on the floor in the film My Left Foot, no one complained that the
lettering was uneven. Similarly, any live accomplishment by Jesus and Mary
Chain is laudable compared to their starting point, even something as minor as
remaining on singe for over an hour. The responsive audience at this show
further mineralized the impact of the Mary Chain‘s flaws. Christie Brown became
a great writer and painter, not just a great handicapped writer and painter.
Likewise, the Jesus and Mary Chain are beginning to show signs of greatness in
concert. At their current rate of improvement, the tours for the next album
should approach Nirvana.
Sandra C. Davis