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We’re in this together: Reznor preaches to the perverted.

A Warm Place

By David King

Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus

Saratoga Performing Arts center, June 18

There 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 stage right.

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 them.

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 fashion.

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.

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