Return of the Man In Black

By Andre Paine for The Evening Standard on March 30, 2005

Trent Reznor is the chosen one for that tribe with a penchant for heavy eyeliner and monochrome wardrobes. His live return to Britain after a five year absence certainly caused a stampede among the goth community. A pair of tickets sold outside a venue for £600; fortunately, it was just about worth it.

Like his followers,the Nine Inch Nails frontman sports any colour as long as it's black. In fact, Reznor appears to have changed as little as his outfit since emerging in the late eighties with his stark industrial sound. At 40, he looks suave and toned, despite and obligatory drugs and alcohol ordeal.

Anticipation was intense, so opening with scabrous new songs Love Is Not Enough and You Know Who You Are left the devotees bewildered at their unfamiliarity. However, when the band lurched into the violent self-loathing of March of the Pigs - from 1994's The Downward Spiral - the audience reaction was to roar in a riotous fashion. As strobe lights blasted, Reznor rocked back and forth on his mic stand, growled his sonorous vocals and then climbed into the crowd.

The combination of heavy guitars and electronic explosions was,at times, forbidding. But it was performed with such unfettered rage that Reznor's bleak vision was totally convincing. New single The Hand That Feeds combined thunderous beats with a furious rock tempo, and will surely be a hit.

Despite his years away,a youthful audience suggests he remains relevant. At one point, a pair of Avril Lavigne lookalikes in hooded tops excitedly spotted synth-pop veteran Gary Numan, a notable influence on Nine Inch Nails.

Aside from such Eighties predilections, Reznor also has a reputation for cultivating a spooky image, having recorded in the house where Hollywood actress Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson's followers. But despite the "shock rock" tag, the standout moment was unfussy piano ballad Hurt, famously covered by Johnny Cash shortly before his death.

On a triumphant return to London, Reznor reclaimed his raw,soulful song with a powerful solo performance. Cash, the original Man in Black, would surely have approved of such fighting spirit.

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