Nine Inch Nails Goes On Mainstream Tour

By Dave Ferman for Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 1, 1994

DALLAS -- Nine Inch Nails' current fall tour -- the band's second around the good ol' U.S. of A. this year -- will be remembered as the jaunt that confirmed that, from here on out, Trent Reznor is a full-fledged rock star, as opposed to a troubled guy who draws a large but essentially cult audience.

The arenas (such as Dallas' Fair Park Coliseum) are filled; the fans turn the floor into a huge, roiling mosh pit; and the average NIN fan is now a cute, fresh-faced little teen whose first concern is smuggling in that Jack Daniels, whose second is scoring a NIN T-shirt before the show, and whose third is actually seeing the show.

This has affected Reznor and his live theater of pain in a number of ways. Saturday night's show was a real *rock show*. The programmed, in-your-face lighting was constantly spectacular, and a video drove home the sadly macabre 'Hurt': Images of clouds moving across a mountain range gave way to charred bodies, mushroom clouds, maggots and the dead stare of war refugees.

Reznor's anger is now much more theatrical, too: He threw guitars, mike stands and keyboards all over the place, dove into the crowd and at one point tackled guitarist Robin Finck. And the show now includes the common rock-show practice of saving the big hits -- 'Down In It', 'Head Like a Hole', 'Closer' -- for the end.

And yet it's often still as immediate as a kick to the face. Rather than deadening the impact of songs such as 'Happiness in Slavery', 'Reptile' and 'I Do Not Want This', the setting -- the enormous industrial/metal whomp the band makes in a large room, the streams and flashes of light illuminating the furious pit -- heightens them.

NIN live is brilliantly assaultive, musically and visually: 100 minutes of being pummeled with desperate, queasy emotions of young white adults fiercely identifying with the anger and disgust Renzor fills his music with.

This time around, though, the emphasis is even more on this year's 'The Downward Spiral' than when NIN played the Bomb Factory last spring. After starting with 'Pinion' from 1992's 'Broken', the band played the majority of 'Spiral', whipping through 'Mr. Self Destruct', 'Piggy' and 'March of the Pigs' with Reznor (in a long T-shirt and shorts) leaning over his monitors, roaming the stage, playing guitar much of the time, and at the end of 'Head Like a Hole', diving into the crowd to complete the union with his ever-growing tribe of followers.

And when the show ended (at the stroke of midnight, of course) and the lights went on, the assembled filed out quickly -- it felt, said one friend, like we'd just been beaten. Which is what we wanted from the evening, really.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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