NIN: a religious experience

By Michael Senft for The Arizona Republic on May 28, 2005

Nine Inch Nails may be amazing in an arena, but to see Trent Reznor and his band in a club is near a religious experience.

The industrial pioneer, touring in support of his fourth CD, With Teeth, drove the packed house at the Marquee Theatre into a frenzy, playing a sweaty, 90-minute set that showcased most of his hits as well as a plentiful dose of the new album.

After arena and amphitheater shows during the late ‘90s, this concert came closest to capturing the adrenaline rush of Nails’ ’94 show at the late, lamented Roxy nightclub.

And thankfully, despite the recent heat wave that has struck the Valley, there were no equipment snafus like the ones that marred Reznor’s performance at the inaugural Lollapalooza concert in 1991.

A word must be said about the security at the Marquee on Friday, however. Between turning people away for chains on their wallets (a reasonable, if inconvenient safety precaution), picture phones (less reasonable) and making the concertgoers take off their shoes to be searched (come on, Richard Reid is not going to be attending a NIN show in Phoenix), many of the patrons missed opening act Dresden Dolls. I had barely gotten my shoes back on when the lights dimmed.

I don’t normally go into the pit. I’m usually content to stand on the sidelines, soaking in the music and the vibes, taking notes from a safe, detached point of view. But seeing Nails in a club was something special and it called for a change in routine.

By the time Reznor struck the opening chords of Piggy, from the 1994 album The Downward Spiral, I was pressing towards the front, fighting my way into the maelstrom of sweaty bodies jostling for position close to the stage.

It was a visceral experience.

The songs blended together – tracks like Terrible Lie, from the 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine and Burn, from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, fit nicely next to new songs like Line Begins to Blur, all building to a sweaty climax during the sensual, industrial smash Closer, which included a nod to the early hit Down In It. The energy expended also required a brief respite, as Reznor slowed the pace down briefly to chastise a stage diver and give the audience a breather. It was the only moment of interaction between the reclusive industrial icon and the crowd.
,br> I needed a break as well – a bottle of water to refuel, a chance to catch my breath. But after the turbulent singalong of Suck, and the majestic ballad Hurt, popularized recently by late country singer Johnny Cash, it was back into the chaos for the frenzied Hand That Feeds from With Teeth, and the classic Wish.

Although dehydration and lack of sleep may have called for a rest, none was coming. I would ride this adrenaline wave until the end.

Nine Inch Nails’ breakthrough single, Head Like a Hole closed the show, with Reznor leaving the audience spent, yet still demanding an encore. None would come, and in truth nothing could have topped the climactic end.

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