Wednesday, May 18
Nine Inch Nails gigs are somewhat analogous to
number nine. When they finally come around, its a very big deal indeed.
Tonight, the anticipation is obvious and worsened by the fact that there is no
bar in this 1,500 capacity venue. According to one local, "If there was,
we'd be skating in puke!"
The London based Pig have done very nicely for
themselves, hitching a ride on Trent Reznor's travelling cyber-tank. And their
electronic Goth heaviness certainly goes someway to justifying their position
on this bill. The singer is a stick insect in leather, much like the Sisters Of
Mercy 's Andrew Eldritch crossed with Reznor himself. The noise they make is
strident and encouraging, although the set comes to an unfortunate end when Pig
overrun and the house lights come up on them.
Half an hour passes slowly. Then the curtain of
synthetic flesh finally comes down and 'Terrible Lie' erupts. It's an instantly
gripping spectacle, Reznor initial stands silhouetted, screaming, 'I need
someone to hold onto!', and flanked by the unfamiliar characters of his new
band. They mostly look like survivors of the apocalypse, but most eye-catching
is Robin Finck; a snarling, wild-haired Heavy Metal banshee, playing guitar
with his fingers. Also present on bass and keyboards is Danny Lohner, formerly
with Texan heavyweights Skrew.
Make no mistake, there are sonic devils at work
here. Anyone still labouring under the delusion that Nine Inch Nails sound
vaguely like Depeche Mode should take the shit out of their ears. This is
hardcore stuff, bordering on total noise at several points. But one of the best
things about this show is the dynamics.
'Terrible Lie' is a relatively laid-back opener
despite its power, but then leads in 'Sin'-one of the first NIN album's
blistering trump cards. Next up is the flesh peeling 'March Of The Pigs'. The
extremity is escalating, and Reznor appears in danger of emotional
shutdown...And then the violence is tempered by the epic electro-ballad
'Something I Can Never Have'. And then the tension start to build again over
the next few songs, exploding into the brilliant 'Wish'. You don't get bored,
and Reznor's sense of light and shade is typified by the magnificent 'Head Like
A Hole', unleashed before the encore.
Some songs have been reworked for the live
cauldron. 'Reptile', for example-a quiet, alternative moment on 'The Downward
Spiral'-has a sickeningly heavy riff tonight, like 'Master Of Puppets' slowed
down to a crawl. Surprisingly, we also get Reznor's take on Queen's 'Get Down
Make Love', the Joy Division tune 'Dead Souls' (from 'The Crow' soundtrack) and
the lesser known 'Suck', which was originally a Pigface song. After the last
blast, 'Happiness In Slavery', Trent Reznor does not introduce his new band,
deliver a lovey-darling speech, or indeed say anything at all. He simply chucks
a keyboard at the drum riser and leaves. The songs have been psycho-babbling
all through the set, so there's no need to speak between them.
Along with at least two members of U2, the man
who signed Nine Inch Nails to Island Records is present tonight. How
fucking smug must he feel tonight?