Live Review: Nine Inch Nails in Davis, CA

By Jim Harrington for liveDaily on March 28, 2005

Over the past 11 months, the comparatively intimate Freeborn Hall on the University of California at Davis campus has felt like the center of the musical universe twice.

The first time came in late April 2004, when the reunited Pixies played a show there. The second instance was on Friday (3/25), when Nine Inch Nails completed its three-city warm-up tour, which also included gigs in Fresno and Reno.

If that was just "warming up," then NIN fans planning to dress in their standard all-black gothic uniforms should definitely accessorize with asbestos when the band launches its full-scale U.S. trek in late April.

Nine Inch Nails will be touring through the summer in support of "With Teeth," which hits stores May 3 and marks the band's first new studio album since 1999's "The Fragile." The new tracks previewed in Davis--including the album's first single, "The Hand That Feeds"--all sounded as strong as anything from the band's catalog and further fueled fan expectations that Nine Inch Nails should have a very big year.

Nails' mastermind Trent Reznor has chosen just the right road band to help him flesh out his darkly appealing anthems of lust and longing. The combo of guitarist Aaron North (Icarus Line), bassist Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson), keyboardist Alessandro Cortini (modwheelmood) and longtime drummer Jerome Dillon performed together like an engine and drove through "March of the Pigs," "Sanctified" and other key numbers like NASCAR racers approaching the final lap.

Reznor played his role of the dark angel to perfection. He was menacing and charismatic, often at the same time, and the crowd's eye was drawn to him even when the stage was cloaked in near darkness. He ticked like a time bomb on the immortal "Hurt," which was exquisitely covered by Johnny Cash, and exploded like napalm on the still-racy "Closer."

By the time the band hit "Head Like a Hole," the lead track from 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine," the crowd was one big sweaty ball of fist-pumping lunatics.

This Davis gig was an extremely hard ticket to score, perhaps the toughest thus far of 2005 in Northern California, and there were reports of some obscenely steep resale prices on the Internet. Whatever they paid to secure entrance, these fans left Freeborn Hall having gotten the real deal.

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