Music does the talking

Nine Inch Nails rip through the night

By Walter Tunis for Lexington Herald Leader on February 25, 2006

Trent Reznor is a man of few words -- at times, perhaps, too few.

After all, he let five years slip away between tours and recordings by alternative rock favorite Nine Inch Nails. But when time came for him to chat last night at Rupp Arena with a crowd of 6,100, his promise was simple and solemn: "We will not let you down."

The moment was earnest and slightly awkward. "That's why I don't talk much between songs," he added.

For the record, Nine Inch Nails did not come close to letting anyone down. Talk, it seemed, simply wasn't required. NIN's two-hour program was as arresting musically as it was visually and unleashed enough personal demons in its songs to crowd every psychiatric couch within miles of Rupp.

The thematic bleakness floated in like a fog over the metallic hum of the show-opening Mr. Self-Destruct. It settled over Rupp for the duration of the show. But the music never once sounded static.

Sin, for example, was ripped in two by buzzsaw solos from guitarist Aaron North so that a flood of techno grooves could overtake the tune. Terrible Lie, on the other hand, was juiced by jolts of chiming keyboard accents by Alessandro Cortini. And for sheer flexibility, bassist Jeordie White and drummer Josh Freese (both of whom double as the rhythm section of the metal-savvy prog-rock circus known as A Perfect Circle) locked behind Reznor as the music rose in deafening, brutish waves and subsided into dark, disturbing hums of synthesized cool.

Reznor, tight-lipped as ever until the time came to let his lungs rip on a song, had a field day with the fury. On the Downward Spiral anthem March of the Pigs, he tossed microphones, water bottles and assorted stage paraphernalia into the crowd. Later, as newer songs like Every Day Is Exactly the Same struggled to portray NIN's more redemptive side, Reznor served as the stoic frontman -- a near motionless silhouette against a carnival of lights, projection and visual effects.

For much of the concert's middle section, in fact, all of NIN became an invisible entity that played behind a curtain that showed a scrapbook of unsettling images that ran from the ruins of Reznor's New Orleans homeland to Discovery Channel-like footage of insects devouring each other. Then the colors bled in, Reznor appeared as a sprite of sorts and the images turned into window panes that exploded into shards of glass splinters.

View the NIN Hotline article index