Putting on the Greatest Show on Earth?

By Sam Winters for Hit Parader on March 1, 1995

The crowd milling about outside the bustling mid-town arena that Nine Inch Nails was playing that evening was a strange lot. Some were dressed to-the-max in "alternative" cool, taking on a casual appearance that one sensed was as studied and deliberate as could be. Others looked like they had just stepped out of some underground sewer system, clad in dirt-caked jeans and strategically ripped T-shirts. And then there were those who had wandered bu just to see what was going on with rock's hottest band; they were dressed more like preppies on parade than any sort of grunge monsters. Yet, somehow, all seemed welcome, all seemed at home as they stood in line to see Trent Reznor and his boys. Maybe it was the fact that NIN had established themselves as such a potent live band-- maybe it was just because that night's show was the unquestioned "in" place to be. Whatever the reason, some two hours before show time the sold-out concert was certainly a bee-hive of activity.

On near-by street corners bootleg T-shirt vendors were doing brisk business, selling their wares for each-- less than half of what similar products were costing inside the arena. Everywhere one looked, scalpers patrolled, flashing their hand-full of prized ducats and shouting out the universally understood two word battle cry, "who needs?" Cops milled around, seemingly oblivious to the sundry "illegal" activities taking place practically under their noses. They were there for "crowd control" according to the sergeant in charge--though *this* crowd seemed to be in little need of control. They were loud, they were boisterous, they were even a little obnoxious, but they were orderly.

Inside the arena, Reznor was oblivious to the activity going on in the streets surrounding him. NIN's main man seemed wrapped in a world all his own, quietly sitting in his dressing room getting himself psyched for that evening's show. In the short span of three years, Nine Inch Nails have garnered a reputation as one of rock's most dynamic-- and unpredictable-- concert attractions, and Reznor knew that for the next two hours thousands of eyes were gonna be watching his every move. "This tour is really helping to establish Nine Inch Nails as one of the most exciting bands in the world," a NIN spokesperson said. "I think after their Woodstock performance so many more people realized what a great band this is. That was a very historic show for them in many ways. Before that, there was a strong core following who appreciated them, but the masses needed to be educated. All of a sudden millions of people knew who Nine Inch Nails were. That show really helped make this tour such a success."

While they didn't appear on stage dressed in the cloak of mud that served as their Woodstock wardrobe, Nine Inch Nails' set was as lean, stark and powerful as was that memorable show last August in upstate New York. Relying on keyboards and prerecorded computer-generated tracks, as well as on the tight musicianship of the band that surrounded him, Reznor enthralled the house with his sinewy stage moves and gut-wrenching vocals.

Songs such as Closer and Pigs from their recent hit album The Downward Spiral, were mixed with earlier material like Head Like A Hole to create an intense and electrically-charged performance. For over 90 minutes Reznor had the packed throng eating out of the palm of his hand, and they seemed only too happy to worship at the Temple of Trent. "That was the greatest show I've ever seen," one sweat-drenched fan said as he exited the arena at show's end. "I've seen 'em all; Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Pearl Jam...you name 'em, I've been there. Nobody else can create the kind of feelings that Nine Inch Nail can. I'm honored to be here, that how strong I feel about this band. I pity anyone who doesn't get the chance to see 'em live."

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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