Last Night: Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. May 20, 2009.
Better Than: Trying to bench-press more than Trent Reznor. Dude is buff.
In honor of the headliners, I'm going to vent some angst to start things off.
Who the hell knew it took an hour and fifteen minutes to get from the Irvine-Costa Mesa border and into your seat at Verizon Amphitheater in IRVINE? Who the hell designed the world so that the car line to get into the Verizon parking lot backs up onto the 405 freeway? Who the hell has Nine Inch Nails come on at 7:45 anyways?
So there I was, after half an hour of sitting in the automobile line surrounded by horn-honking pickup truck idiots, standing in a human-oceanesque "will call" line to pick up my ticket. Then, muffled from the amphitheater, which is bizarrely far away from the box office: "buh-buh-buh-buh --- DUH DUN!" The unmistakable drum roll and guitar blast of Nine Inch Nails's perennial concert starter, "Terrible Lie." Ugggh. Yes, I missed the beginning of the headline act. I wouldn't be so pissed if I didn't, like, love Nine Inch Nails..
Last time Trent Reznor performed in Southern California was at the Forum in Inglewood in Sept. 2008. That was for his "Lights In The Sky Tour," which to Reznor meant "most opulent rock production possible" tour. It was a multi-parted, overwhelming concert with set changes that included curtains of LED lights and interactive backdrops and sweet lasers.
This tour -- the "NIN/JA" tour -- might be NIN's last, or at least that's what Reznor says. Lights in the Sky would have sufficed as a career-capper, and since there's no way he's topping that production, Reznor seems to have gone to his roots: rocking, industrial, raw. The set at the Amphitheater last night was pretty simple, consisting of exposed light fixtures with scaffolds. I finally arrived at my seat before the four-person band busted out the chugging, freaky, satanic-seduction anthem "Reptile." The stage looked like it could have housed that factory-machine sound the song samples throughout.
The story with Trent Reznor is that he has gone from this manic, druggy, mysterious rock star in the 1990s to a fit, geeky, over-Twittering, manically perfect rock star in the 'oughts. And so, the band played tightly, seriously, and literally in four fixed positions on the stage. It might be the fanboy in me saying this, but the song choice was good -- a lot of Downward Spiral, plus assorted career hits and, uh, stuff from The Fragile. The band skipped "Hurt" -- the iconic masochism ballad that used to close all of NIN's concerts -- and instead opted to finish with "Head Like a Hole" for all its chorus singalong potential. It was a savvy move from a guy who nowadays appears as disciplined as all those "pigs" and subservient "fuckers" he screams about.
If you wanted any reminder of what a band that's not over-disciplined looks like, you then got Jane's Addiction. They tried to open their act by projecting some clip from a Kevin Bacon movie up onto a screen. But the sound screwed up and the video was cut short five seconds in. Reznor would probably throw a shit-fit if something like that happened to him, but Jane's didn't mind: They came out with their brand of swampy, jammy, earnest hard-rock and then had Perry Farrell lovingly hiss, "You didn't think a little video fuck-up would stop us, did you?"
Speaking of Farrell... He's nuts. I mean, we all have seen the outfits; last night, it was shiny black pants, a vaugely zebra-stripe blouse with a neck down to the belly button, and a dapper feathered cap. But beyond that, the dude is so genuinely happy and whacked-out at the same time, strutting and writhing and gyrating across stage like a grunge-metal version of Prince. His hilarious quotes and strange acts were too numerous to mention, but it's worth noting that he got into a shoe-throwing fight with the audience (yes) and managed to spin his rambling about the Emerica sneakers hurled at him into a pro-Obama speech.
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The band closed its encore with "Stop!" and "Jane Says." Dave Navarro, of course, played shirtless. Nothing's shocking.
Personal Bias: NIN's live album, ...All That Could Have Been, was my Bible for a while in high school. Seeing it brought to life geeks me out like a Catholic seeing Mary in some toast. I'm not as familiar with Jane's Addiction's albums, but I did enjoy their performance last night.
Random Observation: I had just been wondering why there are still signs for Lion Country Safari near the Amphitheater, given that the Safari closed in 1984. And then there goes Farrell, telling us that his kids wanted to visit the lions -- and then found out that there are none. Heartbreak!