Reznor gets even deeper

Mark Smith
Appeal-Democrat- Published Saturday, June 17, 2000

Call him the Anti-Britney.

In Trent Reznor's dark universe, bubblegum pop and fresh-faced teen idols do not exist. Period.

Forget about the Backstreet Boys or even the jerk rock made popular by Limp Bizkit. For a few hours Thursday night, the Nine Inch Nails frontman claimed the stage at the Sacramento Valley Amphitheatre, baring his soul and allowing the audience a fevered glimpse into the psyche of a man at war with himself.

After greeting opening act A Perfect Circle with a degree of enthusiasm rarely enjoyed by supporting bands, a keyed up crowd roared when giant spotlights cast silhouettes of Nine Inch Nails frontman Reznor and his band as they walked on stage.

The anti-heroes had arrived.

From the dramatic staccato riff of "Terrible Lie" to the wrenching encore "Hurt," Reznor and fellow bandmates guitarist Robin Finck, drummer Jerome Dillon, keyboard player Charlie Clouser and bassist-guitarist Danny Lohner balanced the rage-filled distortion and delicate melodies Reznor has parlayed into a fiercely dedicated following.

That sullen legion showed up in trademark black, from crushed velvet dresses to form-fitting vinyl pants triple digit heat be damned. Dressed in fatigue shorts and a simple shirt black, of course Reznor and bandmates showed pity on the doom 'n' gloom contingent roasting in the still night air by hurling countless bottles of water into the general admission area in front of the stage.

Fans who braved the heat Thursday found solace in a set of powerful songs marked by sonically arresting soundscapes, dramatic lighting and the band's gut-wrenching interplay.

During "La Mer," "The Great Below" and the "Mark Has Been Made," the moody, pensive suites that grace Nine Inch Nail's brilliant latest album, "The Fragile" three video screens slowly descended like Kubrick-style obelisks before lining up on the darkened stage.

The images flashed upon the screens films of water droplets, oppressively huge waves and a woman submerged under water served not only to heighten the music's emotionally delicate feel but also to inspire a brooding sense of claustrophobia and helplessness.

A transfixed audience stood mesmerized as the films shot by installation artist Bill Viola seamlessly mirrored the fragile desperation evident in Reznor's compositions.

While Reznor and company played Nine Inch Nails hallmarks like "Head Like A Hole" and the paean to sexual obsession and self-hatred, "Closer," songs from "The Fragile" showed a man unafraid of challenging himself and his listeners.

When Reznor spit out the lines "now you know/this is what it feels like" during "The Wretched," he gave an updated version of Bob Dylan's classic song of dismissal, "Like a Rolling Stone." Except this time, the protagonist in this case, Reznor spewed disdain from a menacing spot in the gutter, not from a position of comfort and ease.

By the end of the show after brutal versions of "Star*******, Inc.," and a chilling "The Day the World Went Away" Reznor eased into "Hurt," gripping the microphone like a man afraid of drowning.

The crowd swayed and focused intently on every bleak word, singing Reznor's lyrics back to him.

"I hurt myself today/To see if I could still feel," Reznor sang.