Nine Inch Nails at Palladium: Sweat and Darkness

View more photos in Timothy Norris' NIN slideshow.

Never let it be said that Trent Reznor can't admit when he's wrong. Last spring's co-headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction was an exciting idea; two alt-rock giants -- one exiting the music scene, the other re-entering -- hitting the road together. But it wasn't NIN's tour to steal. Maybe it was Reznor's decision to open for Jane's Addiction, or maybe it was having to see NIN during the day, which, for industrial music fans, is unnatural and against God's plan. Either way, Reznor's "Wave Goodbye," as the tour was called, felt more like a shoulder shrug.

LA: abuzz for the first of four shows
LA: abuzz for the first of four shows
Timothy Norris

Which brings us to the Palladium, one of four local clubs Reznor's booked for just himself and his brothers, including guitarist Robin Finck, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and drummer Ilan Rubin. And last I checked, the highest asking price on Craigslist for the Echoplex gig was $700, while another was offering $2,400 for four VIP tickets to the Palladium.

The Palladium awaits Nine Inch Nails for the last time (?).
The Palladium awaits Nine Inch Nails for the last time (?).
Timothy Norris
Trent Reznor, soon to be formerly of Nine Inch Nails?
Trent Reznor, soon to be formerly of Nine Inch Nails?
Timothy Norris

Worth every penny, if you have that many pennies. Never before has Reznor played the entirety of the landmark 1994 album The Downward Spiral track-by-track, starting with the thundering clapping of "Mr. Self Destruct" and its wall of fuzz. From where I stood in the VIP area, Reznor, in signature all-black, as was the rest of the band, and drenched by the third song, was crystal clear. Save the hate mail. A primo viewing spot and free popcorn always come with a price. Sure, I had to grab the balcony's railing after watching Steve -- gulp -- Perry walk in. But being booted from table to table -- even though I was assigned a reserved number -- and jockeying for space with quasi-celebs (not you Jared Leto. Or you Tatum O'Neal), apathetic talkers and texters, and overly amorous couples who never come up for air is nothing to brag about. It must be hard watching a band while grinding on your boyfriend's lap. Excessive lap dancing, by the way, can lead to chaffing.

Nine Inch Nails, 2009
Nine Inch Nails, 2009
Timothy Norris

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America's Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry, however, is a girl after my own heart. She was on the floor. She's hardcore. She's also six-feet-tall. Yup, standing ankle-deep in plastic cups, straws, cigarettes, eye-drop bottles and discarded sneakers, not to mention blood, sweat, tears and blughhhhh, is the only way to show true dedication.

 

Hello darkness.
Hello darkness.
Timothy Norris

Or, maybe not. A male-heavy crowd surfing back and forth and sideways is a scary sight. So is watching them point fingers while shouting "shoot, shoot, shoot" during "Big Man With A Gun." And you know an audience won't let up when those in the mosh pit pause to take deep breaths and high-five each other. Peace momentarily settled in during the album's closer "Hurt," after which the band broke into newer and older material, from NIN's 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine to last year's The Slip. Battling a cold, Reznor's voice cracked here and there; he subsequently canceled their next stop at the Henry Fonda. But after you've been attacked for two hours with music that both barks and bites, it's hard to tell.

Reznor and Nine Inch Nails seemed to suck the color out of the room
Reznor and Nine Inch Nails seemed to suck the color out of the room
Timothy Norris

Former Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy's surprise guest appearance for the tour's New York leg had us wondering who we'd be treated to. Bowie? The Dandy Highwayman, aka Adam Ant? Maybe even the the ghostly hologram of Ian Curtis that Reznor and his technical wizardly could so easily pull off? After talking about the records that influenced NIN's sound, Reznor introduced Gary Numan, who took over the mike, leading the band with versions of "Metal" and "Cars." Our friends electric. Now, we can part ways. But if Reznor makes like Cher and goes away and comes back, I'd never say I told you so.

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