I should have known this would be a walk
on the wild side when the press agent for Nine Inch Nails was briefing
journalists and photographers. Please be aware that you WILL get
wet" was the first thing to come out of
his mouth when briefing us before the concert. Huh? Get wet?
Sorry, I think I got in the wrong line. I was supposed to cover the
Nine Inch Nails concert, not the Shamu show at Seaworld! As I turned
to look at the other photographers assembled with me in the press area
I saw the characteristic look of terror and then the roll of the eyes that
accompanies this type of news when you are holding expensive camera equipment,
all very, very sensitive to water. "Excuse me,"
I say to the press agent, "wet in the first two songs?" The answer,
"Oh yes, wet!" Oh boy. This will be interesting. Ready,
aim, (duck from hail of water coming your way), aim and focus again, take
the picture. I can do this. I’ve done it before with Motley
Crue’s Nikki Sixx dousing me repeatedly and still managed to get a few
good shots without ruining my camera. The trick is all in the twist
action when you see the water coming at you. Its very simple.
Aim, focus, twist and cover, twist back again quickly before they run to
the other side of the stage, focus again and snap the picture. Its
a little like the game of Twister. Timing and coordination are everything.
So, armed with a huge wad of paper towel under my arm, and my beloved camera
equipment, I join the group as we trot onto the elevator that takes us
into the bowels of
the arena and through the maze of production areas that lead to the stage
A Perfect Circle, fronted by Tool’s Maynard,
have just finished their set. The crowd is abuzz with anticipation.
After all, it has been a while since most of the NIN faithful have seen
the elusive Trent Reznor. Two years in the making, "The Fragile" is a meticulously
crafted piece of artwork that Reznor and Nine Inch Nails have successfully
brought to the stage with the release of the CD in the latter part of 1999
and are just finishing up the "Fragility v2.0 leg of their tour.
Although I wasn’t thrilled about the water, I was pleasantly surprised
thatthey carried out the post apocalyptic flavor with an added dimension.
With the recurring theme of water being present throughout the music, it
was added to the live performance in several enhancing effects. The
first was the use of three 17 foot high video screens, which depicted visions
of water and other elements, in sometimes
dramatic or subdued colors, depending on the feel of the music being played.
The video images were perfectly timed and matched to the band’s music,
especially during a trio of songs; "La Mer," "The Great Below," and "The
Mark Has Been Made." For these songs, Los Angeles artist Bill Viola
lent his talents to an already brilliant and enhanced show of sight and
sound. The second enhancement to the normal concert fare came in
what could have been an unintentional way. It was the damn water!
When Trent and the rest of the band came out onto the stage, they wore
heavy stage make up on their faces, in their hair and on their clothes.
As the water from their water bottles began to fly, and they doused each
other (and the journalists and fans
below), a strange thing began to happen. They began to change from
the zombie-like beings they appeared as, to a glistening version of the
same, and finally, at least in Trent’s case, back to the classic dark looks
he is known for. What must have been water based make up was washed
off gradually, allowing them to do almost three phases of costume/effects
changes without leaving the stage or being obvious. Brilliant I say!
Good show, Trent dahling . . .
what, you may ask, is so "Fragile" about industrial/dance/rock music, water
and zombies? Well, not sure on this one. But here are a few
of my observations. In this day and age, who leaves the public eye
for five years and emerges all these years later with a piece of work that
defies convention and stimulates the imagination? Trent Reznor.
His 23 track, double CD release "The Fragile," clearly shows what he has
been doing on his summer vacation, as he so aptly puts it. The master
of his own fusion of dance music, hard rock and industrial flavorings,
Trent Reznor has been doing anything but vacationing in his two year effort
this compelling, post apocalyptic sounding work. Says Reznor, "I
wanted to try new things, fully utilizing the studio while putting more
effort into melody and structure. Instead of trying to analyze what
I was creating, I just let it flow to see where it went. It was all
about not being afraid and it felt very liberating."
While making my way through The Fragile,
I began to wonder if I was being administered an audio rohrschack test.
I kept asking myself, "Wonder what that means?" I would get very
close to thinking I was on the right track with my thoughts as they wove
through the heavy, synthesized beats, then another track would begin in
a totally different vein and I was back at square one. One minute
I was imagining myself slinking through the vestiges of a post nuclear
shanty town with Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" dancers, and as the tracks changed,
I was standing at the edge of an isolated pool of water, where the only
sound was that of a lone drop falling from the sky and causing a harmonic
"ping" as it met its destiny.
The lyrics of The Fragile belie the rantings
of a voice that screams its desperate frustration, while all the while,
a small and overwhelmed little boy hides just on the fringes of the screams,
wanting love and acceptance. "There’s a general theme to the album
of systems failing and things sort of falling
apart," Reznor explains. "In keeping the idea of making everything
sound a little broken, I chose stringed instruments because they’re imperfect
by nature. Although it may not sound like it, most of the album is
actually guitar - and that includes the orchestral sounds and weird melodic
lines. When it came to instruments that I didn’t really know how
to play - like Ukulele or the slide guitar - we were able to get some really
interesting sounds by making the studio the main instrument."
does "The Fragile" speak to the fragility of the human state? Could
it paint pictures of the fragile psyche of the creator of the music?
This may never be answered. But it is safe to say that Trent does
it again . . . and again . . . and again with every weapon in his musical
official Nine Inch Nails Website