Reznor, Nine Inch Nails cavort at the Spectrum

Originally published in Philadelphia City Paper on December 1, 1994

Trent Reznor is a parent's worst nightmare.

Rock's reigning Dionysus - who, with his band Nine Inch Nails, stole the show at Woodstock '94 with a mud-caked set - set up his warped carnival caravan at the Spectrum on Sunday.

The bill - which also included two of Reznor's pet projects: the pornographic industrial-rock of Marilyn Manson and the carny geek show known as the Jim Rose Circus - was by turns obscene, juvenile, convulsive and chaotic.

Marilyn Manson sought to offend and titillate. A trio of male strippers wagged their assets at the sold-out crowd. Lead singer "Mr. Manson" stripped to his BVDs, led a chant of "kill your moms and dads," then got naked and wrestled with his penis as another nude man pretended to engage the band's male bassist in acts that would get them arrested in several states.

The Jim Rose Curcus included a contortionist ("the Amazing Rubber Man," who maneuvered through an unstrung tennis racket), a "human dartboard" (the gravel-voiced Rose), a bare-breasted woman, a gent who hung heavy objects from various body parts (Mr. Lifto), and a glass-eating, tattooed keyboardist (the Enigma) whom Rose used as a whipping boy throughout the 45-minute set.

After 2.5 hours of these sophomoric high jinks, Reznor and the fourpiece Nine Inch Nails took the stage with a cathartic set of white noise, jackhammer rhythms and I'm-at-the-end-of-my-rope lyrics shouted with the conviction of a drowning man.

The death- and guilt-obsessed Reznor roped together Led Zeppelin's thunder, the Who's volume, Iggy Pop's athleticism and Madonna's button-pushing. It was a breathtaking ride- a spectacle of transgression and chaos with the impact of Artaud's theater of cruelty.

For the few parents in the crowd, the sight and sound of 15,000 teenagers screaming "I want to fuck you like an animal," had to be chilling. For folks raised on Elvis and the Rolling Stones, the blind rage, consuming guilt and flailing desire that Reznor peddles is a mystery. But for a new generation of fans it was plain. Trent Reznor is the man who will take rock into the 21st century.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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