Select Magazine


Juli 1994


 Dirt Devils


Autor: Clark Collinsl




(Konzert: 5.5.1994)

Dirt Devils

Nine Inch Nails,

Loew’s State,

Palace Theatre,

New Orleans: please keep your head down…

You don’t have to stay long in New Orleans to realise that it didn’t get nicknamed “The Big Easy” by accident. Although the speed limit here is 30 mph, most of its zonked-out residents would undoubtedly regard this as suicidally fast. Life tends to be slow, relaxed and, largely, a whole bunch of fun. Unless you happen to be an alligator. Or a fan of Nine Inch Nails.

As the Loew’s State Palace Theatre fills up with every freak, weirdo and “alternative music” buff within a 200-mile radius, it’s soon apparent that, even NIN standards, this will be no ordinary gig. Just one look at the “security” tells you that. Crewcut to a man, thee yellow T-shirted behemoths regard the growing crowd with all the warmth and enthusiasm they might usually save for a convention of Commie Faggots ‘R’ Us. If there is any trouble, these boys will be waiting. And if there isn’t, they just might have to cause some.

They don’t have to wait long. Nine Inch Nails have always had a reputation for stirring up more than their fair share of trouble at live shows, with a penchant for trashing both their instruments and each other. Whether this comes form an atmosphere of shared angst or merely the desire to outdo PT Barnum in the showmanship stakes is debatable. One thing’s for sure, with the Grand Guignol, Manson-influenced “Downward Spiral” album under their collective waistbands, it’s hard to imagine Trent Reznor and crew going for it at anything less than full pelt. That this on eon of the first dates of a global tour only cranks the sense if anticipation up a few notches more as the houselights dim, the crowd starts to bray and the forces of law and order resume fondling their bullet clips.

Most bands seem to have abandoned the concept of The Grand Entrance. Not Nine Inch Nails. Sharply silhouetted and shrouded in dry ice, Reznor repeatedly claws, crucifixion-style at the white sheeting that covers the stage while the band charge into the opening, brain-drilling chords of “Terrible Lie”. Eventually the sheets disappear towards the chandelier-clad ceiling and the singer boots his mikestand into the stratosphere causing about 50 members of the audience to risk life and limb in an effort to touch him. The effect is visually magnificent and, as the bouncers try out the first Olympic-standard chokeholds of the evening, slightly the wring side of trouser-changingly terrifying.

Without pausing for breath, Reznor revs up the start of “sin” and then an absurdly fat, industrio-trash “March Of The Pigs”. Already the instrument destruction is in full flow. Microphones, guitars and amps, it turns out, are just the start. Towards the end of “Pigs”, Reznor heaves his synthesizer above his head and throws it at the keyboard-player’s chest. Luckily the guy ducks just in time, and several thousand dollars’ worth of DX-something-or-other simply explodes on part of the scenery before disappearing into the darkness.

While this carnage and violence continues (during a frantic “Get Down, Make Love” Reznor drags the still-playing guitarist Robin Finck across the stage by his hair), it dawns just what a good band Nine Inch Nails have become. On their last UK Tour they frequently sounded like just another bunch of shambolic metalheads who happened to have a singer capable of reading a set-list without moving his lips. OK, so even ’94 they may still have trouble recreating the shit-freezing menace of tracks like “Reptile” or new single “Closer”. But when they can turn it on with such panache for set-closer “Head Like A Hole” while virtually having a stand-up fist fight, and still find time to monitor the condition of their matching leather body suits, who really cares?

Certainly not the security guys, most of whom are by now having as much fun as is human possible without leaving too many bruises. Even they’re stopped in their tracks when the band return for the non-nonsense strobe-arama encore of “Dead Souls”. Building slowly at fist, the song eventually explodes into a combination of catchiness, extreme malice and the kind of guitar chords you could open a tin can with. Finally, Reznor ensures a good ten minutes of post-gig PA howling as he heaves his guitar across the auditorium and stomps offstage. The band follow. And the audience correction resumes.

Catch them if you can. Just be thankful it won’t be here.

Clark Collins