Nine Inch Nails @ Apollo

4 stars out of 5

By Dave Maass for Manchester Evening News on July 10, 2005

MAYBE Trent Reznor's looking a bit like Dylan Moran these days and maybe a decade after the fact, Hurt sounds more like a power ballad than an industrial dirge... but if you closed your eyes for a moment, it was not hard to imagine it was 1995 again and you were experiencing NIN live for the first time.

The unmistakable vocals of Mr. Reznor - one of the few singers who can express the erotic pleasure of self-torment - are enough to exhume the deepest buried teen angst, but it was the smell that fed the nostalgia.

Oh, bless the eye-watering pungency of B.O. in the fittingly named "Pit".  The sun and summer hadn't prevented anyone from donning the black denim and leather and vinyl, the chains and spikes, meaning the sweat was so thick it dripped from the walls.

And for the first of a two-night run, we were brought back to the good ol' days when a gig wasn't a gig until you were picking some headbanging gorilla's back hair out of your teeth.


Perhaps it's only the inflated glamour of my memory, but it seemed the set-up wasn't as astounding or as other-worldly as in the past.

Nevertheless, Reznor has assembled a talented accompaniment - particularly the unnamed guitarist who was more of a Bob Fosse than a Dave Mustaine and a genius light-jockey able to turn the stage into a strobed German underground disco, an abandoned launchpad on a forgotten planet or a studio set for The Matrix.

All the right songs were played - and the encores were satisfyingly predictable - leaving no room for complaint. But when you
opened your eyes long enough to see Trent-Dylan Reznor-Moran in a muscle-man pose you began to have doubts.

When I first heard NIN's Pretty Hate Machine, I felt like I was tasting forbidden fruit. Dark and deviant, unlike anything heard before, diving deeper into the darkness of my teenage mind than the hostility of Pantera hardcrore and the escapist Dungeons-and-Dragons-ness of Metallica and Megadeth. NIN celebrated the perverted thoughts of an adolescent.

But now, in retrospect, listening again, with eyes open, all metal blends together. Suddenly, with the back up singers and crowd shouting (not singing) along to the most rudimentary choruses, it doesn't seem necessarily any deeper or darker or original than Iron Maiden and Motley Crue.

Times change, but the stink stays the same. It's only our noses that change.

Nine Inch Nails play the Apollo again tonight (July 11). Tickets are sold out.

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