NIN, Perfect Circle storm Madison
the digital cardinal 4-24-00

By Bruno Basile
Many critics across the country gave The Fragile, the latest album from Nine Inch Nails, their stamp of approval, dubbing it the best CD to come out last year.

It represented a shift in the band's history, as The Fragile's mood is often much more contemplative and mellow than anything NIN ever produced before.

This change must have been a shift in Trent Reznor's sensitivity (he is responsible for practically every sound on the CD) because Saturday night NIN sounded just like their old furious and destructive selves.

Preceding them on the Dane County Coliseum stage was A Perfect Circle, a new industrial-rock supergroup led by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and featuring former NIN guitarist Billy Howerdel.

When one first hears Keenan's distinctive vocals one instinctively thinks "Tool rip-off." After a while, though, A Perfect Circle's originality comes into the light.

The songs on the band's CD Mer de Noms go from overdriven rock, as in their single "Judith," to beautiful meditative acoustic jams like "3 Libra's," which bounces off Alice In Chains' "Jar of Flies" more than anything by Tool.

Look closely at this band, keep an eye on them in the future and hope they don't end up on "Total Request Live."

When Reznor & Co. took the stage, everyone's black eye make-up nearly smeared off in excitement. This band can rock a crowd--and has been doing it for quite some time.

For this concert, the set was designed to follow climax/anti-climax patterns, as loud stomping industrial punk like "Head Like a Hole" occasionally made way for some of The Fragile's piano instrumentals and hip-hop bounces.

Speaking of hip hop, one never thinks about traditional black music influencing a band like Nine Inch Nails.

Truth be told, they are one of the only acts in rock today that employs multiple rhythms in their music, a lesson learned directly from gospel music.

It happens more often than one realizes that drummer Jerome Dillon (a surprisingly fast and gifted new addition to NIN's line-up), guitarist Danny Lohner and Reznor are playing at different paces, each in his own world.

The result is an amalgam that is particularly fresh in this age of poor man's Divas and Men Strike Themselves.

After a good number of tunes from The Fragile ("No, You Don't," "La Mer") and 1990s classics ("Closer," one of the most beautiful angry songs of all time), the show came to the mayhem of the encores.

"Starfuckers, Inc." has clearly already taken a special place in NIN fans' hearts. A panoramic glance of the Coliseum during this song revealed that the audience members who were not jumping up and down during the song could have been counted on the digits of a hand.

As the band came back from backstage, Reznor candidly said "We were discussing it backstage and we decided that you guys are the best crowd on this tour yet."

Madison screamed back in unison, happy to have beaten the likes of Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis.