Review: NINJA - Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction - at the Comcast Center

More photos here.

Some time in the late 90s, Trent Reznor holed himself up in a house near the ocean to write some music. But while he did use that time to start to piece together some of the songs that would become Nine Inch Nails's 1999 double-album The Fragile, Reznor - who at the time was struggling with various addictions and other personal problems -  really retreated to that house because he wanted to kill himself.

This was the story Reznor told from the stage at the Comcast Center on Wednesday night. It has a happy ending, of course: Reznor is still alive, healthy, clean, and has even found love. He mentioned he was actually planning to marry his bride-to-be, West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig, at that very house, to exorcise the demons once and for all perhaps. He then proceeded to play "La Mer," an instrumental composition he wrote during that time of his life, as his way of demonstrating that he has overcome his demons, and he's out on the other side of it all now.

Roughly an hour later, Jane's Addiction played consecutive songs about Jesus Christ participating in a threesome with two debauched "Marys" and the benefits of finding comfort in the arms of prostitutes. The contrast was noticeable: we went from a guy laying his troubles for all to see to a band who seem completely untroubled by anything. Even though it's reasonably well-known that Farrell and company have battled addiction and other such troubles in their past as well, it still feels like they're incapable of much of any emotion beyond "hey man, relax, we're all just trying to have a good time here," although Farrell did ask a guy who threw a projectile at him (looked like a wadded up piece of paper) to leave.

Both Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction seem frozen in time, both veterans of a time when anyone who played guitar and wasn't hair metal would get lumped into the "alternative" category and was forced to fight for airplay with bands they had absolutely nothing in common with like R.E.M. and the Pixies. Pretty Hate Machine is on the verge of its 20th anniversary; Nothing's Shocking already passed that milestone last year. They're both great albums, yet Reznor's body of work is more relevant in 2009 than that of his tourmates. And sure, a big part of that is the simple fact that Reznor has continued making quality albums into this decade, something many bands with shorter careers than Nine Inch Nails have been unable to do. But it isn't only that - Reznor simply makes over-the-top angst work in a way that few others can pull off, and a lot of that is his ability to connect with his audience and present himself as one of them. His songs are intensely personaly, of course, but he manages to find a universal quality in his own feelings. His pain is the same as your pain, his anger is your anger, and his outrage is your outrage. Whether he's directing his hatred externally - as he does in "Burn," "Wish," "Head Like a Hole," "March of the Pigs," and "The Hand That Feeds," all heard last night - or internally - last night's examples include "The Fragile," "Hurt," "The Way Out Is Through," "Echoplex" - he's voicing the concerns of others, rather than telling them what to think. This could also help to explain why he's reportedly "retiring" Nine Inch Nails; he's at peace now and doesn't relate to all the self-loathing.

Perry Farrell, on the other hand, is like a guy who corners you at a party and won't shut up. Maybe some of the stories he tells are mildly entertaining and kind of titilating, but after a while it gets a little tiresome. Chris Dahlen once compared him to a homeless guy ranting on a street corner while panhandling in a Pitchfork review, and that feels about right. He went off on some rant praising Boston for its role in the American Revolution, which probably wouldn't have been so bad had it not come in the middle of "Then She Did," the band's most haunting, beautiful song, one of very few introspective moments for the band. Farrell's onstage antics were not terribly distracting otherwise, he'd dance, strut, walk across the stage with his arms held away from his sides like somebody doing a bad John Wayne imitation, and struck poses where he'd jerk the microphone away from his face and freeze in position. He didn't appear to be showing any ill effects from his recent calf injury. His voice, though, sounded restrained, like he was holding himself back. This could be a function of any number of things - he is older now, after all, and maybe he simply can't hit some of those notes nowadays. The rest of the band, though, sounded great. Say what you will about Dave Navarro, but the guy can play, as can Stephen Perkins. This was billed as a "proper" Jane's Addiction reunion (as opposed to their previous three reunions) because of the presence of original bassist Eric Avery, but I'll be honest and say that I'm not sure I would have been able to tell the difference.

At the end of their set, Nine Inch Nails retreated offstage for what couldn't have been more than two minutes, then came back to play "Hurt." Reznor's voice cracked with emotion while singing. It was tough not to feel moved by the sight of an older, wiser Reznor looking back on his dark times and feeling good about how he's able to walk away from it all on his own terms. It was classy and understated. In another even more telling contrast, the members of Jane's Addiction stayed on stage long after they finished playing their final encore ("Jane Says," a song I like but wouldn't exactly be upset if I never heard it again), soaking in the adulation from the crowd. Or at least they would have been soaking in adulation had a good 80 percent of the crowd not already been beating a path to the exits while the band was still out there and well before the house lights came on. So maybe "clinging to whatever attention they could find" would be a more apt description.
| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
OTD Categories
VIDEO: Arctic Monkeys at the House of Blues
Rare Frequencies: Trouble and treble
Lady Lee's Lion's Den Playlist
HOMEWORK: Assignment #2: D-Tension
Ticket On-Sale Alert: Muse, Mariah Carey, Black Eyed...
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Bradley’s Almanac -
Band in Boston -
Wayne & Wax -
Aurgasm -
Anti-Gravity Bunny -
Clicky Clicky -
Soul Clap -
Lemmingtrail -
Jump the Turnstyle -
Loaded Gun -
Vanyaland -
Ryan's Smashing Life -
Boston Band Crush -
Sleepover Shows -
Boston Accents -
Pilgrims of Sound -
Allston Rat City -
Playground Boston -
I Heart Noise -
On The Download Archives