Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Frank Poulin
Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction :: 06.03.09 :: Comcast Center (Great Woods) :: Mansfield, MA
The Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction double-header, billed as NIN/JA, featured lopsided scheduling, but eventually proved to be a valuable economic package for recession ravaged music lovers looking to get their money's worth.
|Trent Reznor - NIN :: 06.03 :: Mass|
Before either act took the stage, the audience was treated to an opening set by the latest Tom Morello project, Street Sweeper Social Club. The Rage Against The Machine guitarist got Boots Riley of The Coup to front the act, and filled the band out with an extra guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. Riley's stage presence often came off as a mellower take on the Marxist MC stylings of Rage's Zach de la Rocha, fused with the swaggering stage presence of Mick Jagger.
As much of a rush as it may be to see Morello do his infamous toggle switch solos, the set felt cheesy. The band was dolled up in lame pseudo-military garb and self-promoting Street Sweeper t-shirts, and for as much of a showman as Morello can be while playing guitar with his teeth, his stage banter can be off-putting and is usually repeated night after night. On past Nightwatchman tours his line was, "I have played to bigger crowds in [insert town here] but I have never played to a better crowd than [insert town here]." This time around, before the last song, Morello asked his crowd to spend the last tune on their feet, saying, "I know what you're thinking. You might be saying to yourself, 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me,'" an obvious play on the Rage staple "Killing In The Name."
As disappointing as Street Sweeper was, there was hardly a frown in the crowd when Trent Reznor and his cohorts took the stage for what Reznor is calling the last tour for Nine Inch Nails. The "Wave Goodbye Tour" was the farthest thing from the multi-sensory mind-fuckery Reznor employed on his last "Lights In The Sky Tour." Rather than hiding behind a mesmerizing, yet dehumanizing screen of static, Reznor and co. did their thing in clear view of the crowd, which, for a farewell tour, was far more appropriate.
|Tom Morello - Street Sweeper Social Club :: 06.03 :: Mass|
The start of the set kicked off with "Somewhat Damaged," from Reznor's 1999 release, The Fragile, before moving into some of the peppier tunes off his recent release, 2008's The Slip, such as "1,000,000" and "Discipline." Following "Discipline," the group performed "March Of The Pigs" and "Piggy" off of his 1994 breakout, The Downward Spiral. The Spiral-era material was noticeably darker than the night's previous tunes, and for good reason. Reznor recorded the album in the house that Charles Manson murdered Sharon Tate in, during a period of his life plagued by addiction. These were the tunes that saw Reznor break from his impressive showmanship, giving the audience a more intimate view into his soul.
Although the lighting rig seemed less than impressive compared to his last one, the "Wave Goodbye" schematic had a few tricks up its sleeve. The strobe lights and LEDs employed were flashed in a precise way, at a rapid pace; intentionally creating optical illusions that only existed in the minds of the audience. But even without these illusions, Nine Inch Nails puts on one helluva show. Trent Reznor is the definition of a world-class performer, dolling out nothing but his best each and every night. A live spectacle in his own right, the technologically progressive philosophies underpinning Reznor's live shows is only a part of what will surely place Nine Inch Nails in its rightful place in the history of modern rock.
On songs like "Echoplex" and "Burn," Reznor manhandled a synthesizer rig next to his drummer, which provided guitarist Robin Finch some time in the spotlight. Plenty of guys in Finch's shoes are assumed to be hired guns that play what they're told Finch demonstrated he is much more. While keeping to the tune's original sound, he made the guitar licks seem his own, and he did so with great showmanship. Whether he was strumming his guitar or humping his synthesizer, whatever Finch did on stage was done with a very visual, physical energy.
|NIN :: 06.03 :: Mass|
The set wrapped up with the one-two punch of "Head Like A Hole" and "Hurt," giving fans a chance to hear their favorite NIN tunes one last time. Although farewell tours are proving to be far from permanent these days, for now we are meant to believe that this is the last chance we'll get to see Nine Inch Nails in a live setting. In the event that this is, in fact, a permanent reality, get your ass out the door to see them however you can! Besides their reputation as industrial-rock gods, NIN puts on a show that could please a deaf man and will challenge your idea of what a rock concert can be.
Unfortunately, Nine Inch Nails proved to be a tough act to follow, and Jane's Addiction never should have followed NIN in the first place. As the inaugural headliners of Lollapalooza, Perry Farrell gave Nine Inch Nails a great deal of exposure when Jane's booked NIN for the touring festival, and Trent Reznor has always considered Farrell and Co. to be mentors of sorts. That respect for Jane's Addiction may have had a good deal to do with the way the headliners were scheduled, but Reznor's respect for Jane's Addiction came at the expense of the crowd, the overwhelming majority of which seemed more interested in Nine Inch Nails than Jane's Addiction.
Jane's took the stage to a much emptier house than Reznor had just played to, and started out their set with "Three Days," giving Mass their first taste of a "reunited" Jane's Addiction. The hype behind the act's reunion felt bogus and transparent. True, this was the first time since their 1991 farewell tour that they've toured with original bassist Eric Avery, but Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins have toured on and off since 1997, most recently headlining the last touring Lollapalooza Festival in the summer of 2003.
|Dave Navarro - Jane's Addiction :: 06.03 :: Mass|
With the original four together at last, expectations were high, but the group struggled to live up to expectations. Navarro came out shirtless, as usual, shredding on his six-string, as he demonstrated an intricate technical prowess that never really went anywhere. But as any hack metal guitarist can demonstrate, knowing how to play is one thing but knowing how to drive a coherent solo to a climax is another.
Perkins has long been considered one of the real driving forces behind the ahead-of-its-time sound Jane's Addiction crafted, utilizing tribal rhythms that have had influence on drummers as famous as Danny Carey of Tool. But at the Comcast Center, even the tribal beat-keeper seemed off his game. Throughout the night there were about a half dozen moments where he missed a beat and things were momentarily out of synch.
Interestingly enough, the only member of the quartet who seemed entirely on the ball was Avery, the long time holdout for a full-fledged reunion. Avery kept to the right of the stage, thumping out bassline after bassline, not even really interacting with the rest of the band, as he let the vibrations of his notes take him into his own world.
The most visible disappointment was Perry Farrell. Understanding he'd injured his leg on a previous tour date, there wasn't a great deal of expectation for him to be romping around the stage like the coked-out madman he once was. But even through the filter of delay effects, his voice was weak and lacking the edge that made Nothing Shocking, their 1988 debut, the classic it still is.
|Jane's Addiction :: 06.03 :: Mass|
Beyond vocal difficulties that could have been ignored, Farrell's crowd-working wizardry seemed to have been done without a proverbial magic wand. To be fair, taking the stage to Trent Reznor's crowd after a Nine Inch Nails performance is an uphill climb to begin with, but when Farrell stopped the performance to chew out a fan that hit him in the head with a piece of trash it was painfully clear that he'd lost the audience.
It's always a fun time when you get to hear "Ocean Size" and "Stop" live and in the flesh, but even when compared to their 2003 tour it seemed like the edge of their blade had gotten duller. Had they gone on before NIN, odds are they would have played to a larger crowd with a higher level of anticipation that Farrell could have used to his group's favor, but for one reason or another, this was just not the case.
As unfortunate as this reality was, everyone in attendance was treated to a night full of legendary performers that all played a unique part in the early '90s renaissance that put rock & roll back on top. And when you package acts together like this chances are everyone left having gotten what they came for.
Videos by Jesse Borrell:
NINE INCH NAILS - A Live Compilation 06.07.09 from Jesse R. Borrell on Vimeo.
Jane's Addiction "Three Days" LIVE HD from Jesse R. Borrell on Vimeo.
Street Sweeper Social Club - Nobody Moves (Till We Say Go) LIVE HD from Jesse R. Borrell on Vimeo.
Continue reading for more pics of NINJA in Mass...