Hard-rock concert wows fans

By Robert Wegner for The Badger Herald on October 18, 2005

As a stop on a tour to promote its recent release, With Teeth, Nine Inch Nails rolled through Madison last week with fellow rockers Queens of the Stone Age and Autolux. Attendees packed the Alliant Energy Center for the Oct. 13 concert, coming out in droves to see Trent Reznor’s latest stage show.

Fans who came to the show knowing nothing about the opener, Autolux, likely weren’t impressed by their below par attempt at “noise pop.” One guitar player isn’t going to cut it in the world of noise. It came out sounding like an early Sonic Youth record (maybe E.V.O.L.) being played backwards. Anyone looking to listen to Sonic Youth would do well to pop in Daydream Nation and listen to it the right way. The band’s lack of stage presence also became their demise, but it’s not like concertgoers were expecting much from them in the first place.

Queens of the Stone Age were up next and they put on an entertaining, yet bland show. It seems that ever since Queens lost their renowned bass player, Nick Oliveri, their shows have become less enjoyable. His stage antics always made for a high-energy show that the crowd could actually get into. The lack of hits also made the set seem long and, at times, somewhat boring. However, when they played something off of Songs for the Deaf or Rated “R” the reaction was instant. Maybe they should have stuck with old material instead of filling the set with extraneous new material that just doesn’t rock as hard.

The highlight came during an eight-minute plus rendition of “No One Knows,” as lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme singled out a fan that flipped him the bird. Homme stated something about this kid “stealing all his dad’s money to buy Viagra this morning and that the only thing that got hard was this knob’s finger” and then something else about everyone kicking his ass in the parking lot. Well, maybe you had to be there.

Nine Inch Nails obviously stole the show — well, rather the new lead guitar player, Aaron North, stole the show. Forget Robin Finck’s (NIN’s old lead guitarist) stage antics, because North puts those to shame. Four songs into the set, he had already knocked a security guard unconscious when he flung a microphone stand toward the audience only to be stopped by this unfortunate security guard’s head. For all the attendees know, this guy could be dead or in a coma. North’s stage presence made the pricey ticket well worth it.

The rest of the band members didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves as much as North was. Jeordie Osbourne White kept to his side of the stage, and one hardly saw keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, probably due to the higher emphasis on guitar that the new record With Teeth exhibited. After Jerome Dillon’s newfound heart condition caused the cancellation of the band’s scheduled Sept. 30 show, Alex Carapetis took the throne to lay down an impressive stick showing for such short notice.

Reznor looked better and sounded better than he ever has, with a new haircut and his atypical waif-like body having been replaced by muscles — many of them. He truly looks to be a completely changed man from his younger days. Yet, his new “look” didn’t help him put on a more energetic show. He still pranced around the stage every now and again, but he never really got into it on the same level as North. Maybe it’s just not the same Trent anymore, possibly due to the fact that he’s sobered up in the past few years.

The highlights of NIN’s performance were a version of “The Only Time” tacked onto the outro of “Closer,” “Head Like A Hole,” complete with mass destruction a la Aaron North and fan favorite “Reptile,” which had it’s own set of reptile-like green and yellow lighting effects that covered the stage. The lights during the rest of the set were more intense than anything else, including the music. They climaxed with an amazing crowd pan during the chorus of “Wish” that would have the best light engineers drooling in disbelief.

Overall, an amazing show from a band that continues to deliver a more intense and satisfying concert experience as time passes.

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