Nine Inch Nails unites, entertains at AAC

By CRAYTON HARRISON for Dallas Morning News on October 18, 2005

To sensitive souls and high-school Goth kids, his band’s songs are a musical expression of the anger borne of pain and loneliness. To rock mooks, Nine Inch Nails concerts are the ideal time to slam into each other violently. And music geeks know how Mr. Reznor helped bring to the mainstream the art of mashing rock and electronic beats together.

For all its seething, dark music, this band brought a lot of people together Monday night, filling most of the seats and half the floor of American Airlines Center. Wild-eyed youths surfed the crowd up front while peaceful souls closed their eyes and tapped their feet in the back.

Mr. Reznor’s venomous scream has lost none of its urgency after 16 years in action. He grabbed his microphone as if it were a power tool, stomp-jumping to the cymbal crashes, his once-wiry body thickened and grown up.

He kept stage banter to a minimum, only occasionally deigning to acknowledge that he was playing to an arena, offering a half-hearted “It’s great to be back in Texas” midway through the 1 ½-hour set.

Guitarist Aaron North, formerly of the Icarus Line, was there to stimulate, high-kicking and swinging his guitar around his body as if it were a kung-fu weapon.

For a three-song cooldown in the middle of the concert, the band used an ingenious piece of set design. A see-through curtain in front of the stage acted as a movie screen, with images cast onto it and the band barely visible behind, appearing ghostlike in the darker pictures. At one point, the effect made the band look as if it were playing in the midst of a raging snowstorm.

Mr. Reznor obliged the crowd, running through all the oldies, from “Head Like a Hole” to “Closer.” He also slid in obscure gems from the remix collection Further Down the Spiral and the soundtrack to Natural Born Killers.

That variety, the willingness to play to all his audiences, exonerated Mr. Reznor from seeming stingy when he didn’t return for an encore despite the crowd’s urging.

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