Return of the King

Trent Reznor hits the UK for the first time in six years

By Alexander Milas for Kerrang! on March 6, 2005


Don't hate the lucky bastards who made it in. NIN's complete UK tour sold out in under 15 minutes, they haven't played these shores since 1999, they're out supporting the imminent release of their first album in five years - and if drummer Jerome Dillon gets the runs again it could force a last-minute cancellation as it did at the Docklands Arena in 2000.

A static charge of relief fills the air as the lights go down. Suddenly the band storm the stage to the sound of a drink-spilling roar. They don't waste a moment before launching into the ferocious, angst-burned surge of 'Love is Not Enough' from the forthcoming 'With Teeth' album. It may be virgin material, but it seethes with the unflinching bitterness that's been Reznor's trademark since 1989's Pretty Hate Machine grabbed the music industry by the balls and squeezed hard.

It merges perfectly with the more familiar bite of 'March Of The Pigs', which - riddled with Dillon's howitzer drum-fire - comes across like a perfectly scripted soundtrack to the moshing carnage below. New guitarist Aaron North - formerly of The Icarus Line - is an explosive presence, charging around the stage, sparring with Trent, and generally injecting the whole thing with a punky, edge-of-collapse drama.

He's the perfect foil to bassist Jeordie White, who exhibits the same statuesque sense of cool as he did as a member of Marilyn Manson. All the while Reznor - seemingly energised by the revamped line-up - shrieks and clutches his micstand like it's the only thing holding him back from the brink of a violent mental breakdown. It's magnetic.

But it's when the sleaze-coated, anthemic grooves of 'Piggy' evoke a venue-wide chorus that the reasons for NIN's astonishing success become clear. The crowd mimic Reznor's every word and pause, as if listening to a sermon on Sunday. This isn't the sound of alienation but total unity in despair. "Hello London", gasps the singer. "It's so f*cking good to be back."

The band disappear backstage, leaving him alone with a keyboard as the melancholic, unmistakable opening chords of 'Hurt' echo through the suddenly silent room. Lighters go off but nothing distracts from the poignance and sincerity of the moment. It's soon eclipsed by the earthshaking savagery of 'Starf*ckers Inc.' and - the only possible conclusion - 'Head Like A Hole'. The delivery's impeccable but it has impact because Reznor's music speaks of something universal and he plays it like he means it.

NIN are back. It's about f*cking time.

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