in this together: Reznor preaches to the perverted.
Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus
Performing Arts center, June 18
is something counterintuitive about Nine Inch Nails concerts
these days. Trent Reznor’s profane, dance-metal-industrial
complex should logically produce a live sound somewhere between
chainsaws cutting flesh and children playing in minefields.
At times Sunday night at SPAC, Reznor did marshal his band
into a terror-inducing, gear-churning stomp. But since releasing
their oft-derided 1999 double album The Fragile, NIN
concerts have become lush, warm experiences where Reznor wraps
himself and audiences not only in layers of textured sound,
but also, often, in a blanket of graphic film images and the
embrace of soft lights.
Don’t be mistaken, though: SPAC was not some big love fest
on Sunday night.
Opener Peaches made sure of that. Well, sort of.
Decked out in what looked like a pleather jumpsuit and flanked
on each side by keytar players, Peaches oozed sex as she glam-rocked
her way through her electro-clash set. She performed sex acts
on her microphone and thrust her hips into the air. Just when
the scattered audience seemed to stop paying attention to
her, she stripped off her jumpsuit and, in her bra and panties,
draped herself in a pink cape that read XXX. Then she ran
through the crowd chanting the line to her most famous song:
“Fuck the pain away!” The audience exploded, and, realizing
she had worked the audience into a proper furor, Peaches ran
back on stage, turned off her keyboardist’s rig and exited
In a move that must have seemed like some sort of sacrilege
to the sun-melted goths in attendance, the reunited Bauhaus
took the stage before the sun had properly hidden itself from
During “Rose Garden Funeral of Sores,” Peter Murphy strutted
in circles like a goth Mick Jagger, throwing rose petals over
Ash as Ash tore notes from his wailing guitar. When the band
took leave of the stage, it felt like a premature ending.
Red rose petals were vacuumed away, and then a mechanical
skeleton barrier descended. Reznor (sans his black locks),
looking like a tattooless Henry Rollins, took the stage screaming
through the metal filter: “Broken, bruised, forgotten, sore/Too
fucked up to care anymore.” The normally disintegrating robotic-death
march of “Somewhat Damaged” was softened a bit by the angular
riffs of new guitarist Aaron White and the analog blips of
keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, but drummer Josh Freese quickly
propelled the band up into the more-than-urgent “You Know
What You Are?”
The set list was dominated by NIN scorchers from the Broken
EP, songs such as “Wish” and “Gave Up,” but White’s spastic
playing transformed the tracks into more textured, alternative-punk
thrashes, instead of industrial-metal speed balls. White’s
leads dripped with a brash twang rather than the soaring metallic
swagger of former guitarist Robin Finck.
The band hit introspective peaks, thanks to White’s subtle
playing on Fragile tracks “Big Comedown” and “Into
the Void.” They even broke out obscure fan favorites “Burn”
and “Suck” and delivered them in NIN’s new spastic, churning
Then, for a finale, with no barriers in the way, no obstruction
separating him from the crowd, Reznor brought the house down
with a one-two punch. He began with “The Hand that Feeds,”
and the follow-up came with “Head Like a Hole.”
For a minute, it seemed Reznor might finally have escaped
the weight of his angst, ready to take on the world rather
than himself. And then the barriers descended again with the
closing chords of “Head Like a Hole.” But rather than hiding
the band, it lit up, spelling out N-I-N in gigantic red letters.