Reznor brings his ageless rage to Xcel

By ROSS RAIHALA for St. Paul Pioneer PrRess on October 12, 2005

Some might say that by the time you're 40, it's time to get over it.

That's one of the primary criticisms aimed at Nine Inch Nails' latest disc "With Teeth." Now in his fourth decade on the planet, band leader Trent Reznor seems a bit too long in the tooth to be singing overwrought anthems aimed squarely at the teenage-angst demographic.

Try telling that to the guy in front of 10,432 screaming fans Tuesday night at St. Paul, Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center.

Having kicked his booze and drug habits — and clearly swapping them for a new addiction to pumping iron — an impossibly robust and lusty Reznor looked and played like a man half his age. Tight black trousers and a matching sleeveless T only focused the attention on his impressive pipes — both his arms and his voice.

Reznor's long been known as a firestorm on stage, and the legend only grows with his penchant for taking five or six years off between tours. Tuesday, during his first Twin Cities gig since 2000, he led a new group of backing musicians through a raging, thoroughly entertaining survey of Nine Inch Nails' career, which kicked off during the first Bush administration (and, with songs like "The Hand That Feeds," makes sure to bash the current one).

One of those band members, drummer Alex Carapetis, was particularly fresh — he's been with the group less than a week, filling in for the ailing Jerome Dillon. Working from an easel-sized cheat sheet off to the side of his kit, Carapetis performed admirably enough, stuttering only a few times, most notably during "Love Is Not Enough," the first vocal track of the evening.

Guitarist Aaron North, a punk-rock kid known for his work in the Icarus Line and the Buddyhead Web site, proved to be an able foil to Reznor, giving the band's filthy classic "Closer" and new single "Only" an added shade of instrumental anarchy. The rest of the evening encompassed the expected hits ("Sin," "March of the Pigs" and "Hurt," a number with new gravitas after Johnny Cash turned it into the last hit of his life) and a few surprises (the rare early-career track "Suck" and "Reptile," an album cut from "The Downward Spiral").

As is his custom, Reznor wrapped up the exhausting, exhilarating evening with the song that made him famous, "Head Like a Hole," and not even a hint of an encore.

Openers Queens of the Stone Age could learn from Nine Inch Nails. Their hour-long set of neo-stoner rock quickly spiraled into drunken self-indulgence. And the Nick Oliveri-sized hole in the group was all the more apparent, with bandleader Josh Homme unable to find a suitably charismatic replacement for Oliveri, the bassist he unceremoniously sacked last year.

View the NIN Hotline article index