Nine Inch Nails pounds The Joe

By Emily Roberts for The South End (Wayne.edu) on October 10, 2005

Thousands packed Joe Louis for the chance to see Trent Reznor and his band.

The Nine Inch Nails concert on Saturday night at the Joe Louis Arena was the band’s first Detroit appearance in five years.

On average, there has a been a five-year gap between each album and accompanying tour, and Nine Inch Nails fans have learned a great deal of patience over the years.

In recent interviews, Trent Reznor, the man who is Nine Inch Nails, has said he wondered whether his music was relevant anymore. He’d removed himself from music for a while, instead concentrating on recovering from alcoholism before recording “With Teeth,” their latest record.

Reznor needn’t have worried about his relevancy, judging from the numerous and eclectic fans present at the Joe. Fan attire ranged from T-shirts and jeans to full Gothic regalia, and old and new fans mingled.

Both opening bands, Autolux and Queens of the Stone Age, were hand-picked by Reznor. Autolux went on at 7:30 p.m. and played a 30-minute set, most of which came from their latest record, Future Perfect.

Their low-key approach didn’t translate well into an arena setting; they are best suited to small clubs.

Queens of the Stone Age walked on the stage like they owned it and proved themselves worthy of such a claim. They blasted through an hour-long set which ranged from tight pop hooks (“Little Sister,” the lead single from their latest, “Lullabies to Paralyze”) to extended riffing (“No One Knows,” “Song for the Dead,” both from “Songs for the Dead”).

Frontman Josh Homme’s banter ranged from funny to absurd. “We keep ending the song the same way,” Homme said during “Song for the Dead,” which had several false endings. “I like drugs. Just thought I’d tell you that.” On another occasion, he wished the crowd a happy Saturday.

Nine Inch Nails started out their set by playing “Pinion” in the dark behind a curtain. The curtain rose during the following song, “Love Is Not Enough,” from “With Teeth.”

The first part of the set featured crowd favorites like “Terrible Lie,” “Wish,” and “March of the Pigs,” during which Reznor encouraged the crowd to clap along.

Another curtain, acting as a projection screen, came down for “Eraser” and stayed down through “Right Where It Belongs” and came back up at the end of “Beside You in Time.”

The images ranged from biology filmstrips (“Eraser”) to war footage juxtaposed with shots of suburbia and the President and First Lady dancing (“Right Where It Belongs”). The latter evoked a mix of cheers, boos and obscene gestures from the crowd.

Reznor’s infamous instrument-and-bandmate abuse wasn’t as blatant as it had been during past tours, but he seemed more concerned with tearing it up in a metaphorical sense rather than a literal one.

Another marked difference from other tours was Reznor’s buzz-cut and muscular physique, a far cry from his pale and wan “Prince of Darkness” look from 10 years ago.

Reznor even treated the audience to some rare banter. During “Hurt,” the entire arena sang along and waved lighters as Reznor sang and played keyboard unaccompanied, and was moved enough to address the crowd.

“I just want to say that I got kind of caught up in the moment during that. Three years ago I never thought I’d be on stage, much less playing to an awesome crowd like this. I just want to thank you all,” said Reznor.

Reznor also thanked NIN’s new drummer, Alex Carapetis, who was filling in for Jerome Dillon. During the tour opener in San Diego, Dillon got sick and decided early last week to take the rest of the tour off.

The band resumed rocking, finishing the set with “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole.” When the band left the stage, the house lights came right up.

The 90-minute set, full of arena bombast and a spectacular light show, had not called for an encore.

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