Nine Inch Nails soothes angst of teens, adults
Monday, June 12, 2000


After you've made it past those terrible, awkward years of your teens and early 20s, you forget -- if you're lucky -- how much angst, fury and rage once seethed below the surface of your skin. You forget how angry at the world you once were and how uncomfortable in your own flesh you used to feel.

You forget how desperately you needed to vent all of that hormone-fueled ugliness and how, sometimes, listening to music was the only healthy way to do it.

On Friday night at The Gorge, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails reminded those of us who'd forgotten, just how good it feels to unleash our inner adolescent. And he helped those still in the throes of teen torment to lance their demons as though they were nasty boils.

Dressed like a gang from the movie "Road Warrior," Reznor and his four-man band opened their 90-minute show with "Terrible Lie." Wailing in his trademark pained voice, Reznor demanded, "Hey God, can this world really be as sad as it seems?" before rushing headlong into similarly despondent and razor-edged anthems of "Sin" and "Piggy."

"I gave you my purity, my purity you stole."

"Black and blue and broken bones you left me here, I'm all alone."

Reznor, along with guitarists Robin Finck and Danny Lohner, deftly grafted riffs from one song onto another, a mix-and-match approach that gave old songs some fresh and surprising twists.

The crowd responded by working itself into a churning, frothing human pit beneath the stage. "Head like a hole, black as your soul, I'd rather die than give you control." They sang along with Reznor in a sweaty uncorking of pent-up emotions.

Nine Inch Nails. Rock concert Friday night at the Gorge.

Reznor is the master of ebb and flow, and throughout Friday's show, he carefully manipulated the energy, rushing headlong through pummeling songs such as "Gave Up," only to pull back and allow for the gentle reprieve of songs like "The Great Below."

Midshow, three large screens descended behind the band, displaying a montage of water-themed scenery -- crashing waves, raindrops in a pool. Haunting and beautiful.

Make no mistake, Nine Inch Nails is not a band that should be dismissed as the latest teen pap. Reznor and his brand of industrial-strength rock have been an antidote to angst for more than a decade. His first LP, "Pretty Hate Machine," soothed aching psyches during the the Bush administration. And his latest album, "The Fragile," ushered in the new millennium.

Reznor's music has remained relevant and timely despite the trend toward gaggingly sweet teen pop because his work is good. He is a master at layering guitars, atop electronic sounds, atop insistent beats, until he's created complex sound scapes as disturbing as they are beautiful. Songs like "Wish" and "Suck" (both executed with tight zeal Friday) stab straight to the heart of that universal pain and loneliness we feel so acutely during adolescence, and revisit on occasion even as adults.

Yes, Nine Inch Nails is a guilty, self-indulgent, pleasure -- like scratching a mosquito bite.

During "March of the Pigs,", Reznor's fast-paced guitar rage halted momentarily, and in a pretty sing-song voice, the goth king belted out this question: "Now doesn't that make you feel better?"

Judging by the masses of smiling, sweaty faces after the concert, the answer is, "Yes. Yes it does."