Nine Inch Nails
International 2, Manchester
In a sense, the gig starts with the cab driver
telling the photographer and I to wind up the windows as we approach the club
because he reckons something dangerous is about to happen, and continues with
Trent Reznor chatting to me backstage about his desire to self-destruct,
self-mutilate and generally do horrible things to himself and anybody else who
knows him. “I‘m not a badass, though‚“ beavers, reaching for a giant beaker of light
point in arguing.
By the time Nine Inch Nails appear on stage
smeared in corn starch or fluorescent paint or what ever it is that makes them
look like models in a Face fashion spread an Beirut chic (what, another one?), the
band have switched into hot-rails-to-hell mode for ‘Terrible Lie“. Reznor is yelling
“I‘m gonna smash myself to pieces/I’m
gonna f*** myself up,“ and it’s obvious the show really has begun.
And it is a show, make no mistake. Welcome to
Nine Inch Nails‘ theatre of hate, Trent Reznor‘s public exorcisms of disgust and
despair performed at no extra charge. But who feels more purged after NIN‘s
hardcore electro therapy session, them or us? Good question. Reznor spends much
of “Sin“ trying to shove guitarist Richard Patrick (whose brother,
incidentally, is Arnie‘s nemesis in “Terminator2“) into the crowd, and vainly attempts
to electrocute keyboardist James during a version of Adam & The Ants‘
“Physical“ by hurling cupfuls of water at the poor bastard.
Also included in Trent‘s repertoire of rebel
postures tonight simulated masturbation and ejaculation using a shaken-up beer bottle
during the cover of Queen‘s “Get Down Make Love“ (!), smashing the mikestand to
the ground every 11 seconds, crashing into various band members and the bars
that surround Jeff’s drum stock every 17seconds, and threatening to do a Jim Morrison
by grabbing his crotch during a particularly vicious, nay, homicidal “The Only
Time”. Looks like someone could get hurt tonight.
Could they really, though? How much of this is
mere rock n‘ roll spectacle, NIN‘s continuation of the great American tradition
of glitzy showbiz (it‘s not that far from Broadway to the Bowery), and how much
is truly subversive, even DANGEROUS? Okay, a while back at a gig in Seattle Reznor
whacked his guitar over some gadgetry and James got his face gashed to bits in
the process, and the ward from his UK press officer is that NIN‘s mainman is
But is this just another in a series of recent attempts
to unleash a maniac on a rock scene starved of obsessives willing to walk it like
they talk it (see: Axl Rose, Perry Farrell, Shaun Ryder)? Are NIN‘s aggressive
onstage antics ever likely to spill out on tot he streets? Most importantly, would
Trent really be prepared to give his life
for us, or would that bugger up his plans for the next album? We’ll see.
For now, Nine Inch Nails are impressive enough.
Naturally, as a live experience, it blows
average rock gig out of the water. You can even hear Trent‘s words, a mixture of
self-loathing (“I‘m just an effigy to be defaced/ To be disgraced“ - “Sin”),
self-pity (“You took away all my self-confidence... Now I‘m slipping on the tears
you made me cry“- That’s What I Get“) and the sort of sensual/ spiritual, dirty/divine
blurring that would give Prince a hard-on. “I‘m Jesus Christ an Ecstasy,“ sings
Reznor on a new, as yet untitled song. The church of the poisoned mind, or what?