New Times contributor Mike R. Meyer and clubs editor Benjamin Leatherman were both in attendance at Cricket Wireless Pavilion last night for the '90s alt-rock doubleheader of Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction. They braved thick clouds of marijuana smoke and stage fog to bring us a review of the show, point/counterpoint style.
Benjamin Leatherman: Nine Inch Nails should've headlined. Period. If Trent Reznor's recent statements about how this is NIN's "final" tour are to be believed, then a longer set was warranted for his Phoenix swan song. I'm glad for what I got, spending most of the show enraptured like some chubby teenaged goth girl, but in the end it left me wanting more. Especially if it's the last time he'll ever roar his way through songs like "Wish" and "March of the Pigs."
Mike R. Meyer: I have to disagree. NIN put on a solid show, but it was definitely light on the visual element compared to the previous times I've seen them live. I was ready to chalk it up as just another side effect of the recession, but I bumped into New Times contributor "Psyko" Steve Chilton, who set me straight. Apparently, NIN's stripped-down stage show is a result of the band changing up its set lists on a nightly basis. I suppose I can buy that, but I still felt like the show didn't pack the same punch without the visual element we've come to expect from Reznor. A little more than halfway through the set, I was already jonesing for some Jane's Addiction.
Benjamin: Personally, the more minimalist approach by Reznor was more enjoyable. I've already been to NIN shows with stage-high screens projecting videos of animal carcasses getting consumed by maggots. I was at Cricket to hear the man and his music, and not get dazzled (or repulsed) by the visual wizardry. The lighting did complement things at different points, however, like the flashes of red during "The Downward Spiral," a song that encapsulates a descent into madness better than no other. I could've done without the ever-present strobe lights, as well as the storm of stage smoke.
Mike: As I predicted earlier this week, NIN's set was heavy on the old stuff (almost two-thirds of the set dated back to at least 1994), and I'll definitely give them props for not playing "Closer." But I think I was most impressed by Reznor's voice. After 20 years of screaming, it's still holding up strong (quite a bit better than his hairline).
Benjamin: Zing! I really dug the emphasis on the earlier material. As I've said before, after NIN released The Downward Spiral, Reznor's kinda gone into an, er...downward spiral in terms of the quality of his music (The Fragile notwithstanding). There were some bonafide rarities on the set list, including "Dead Souls" from The Crow soundtrack or "Banged and Blown Through" (the song he wrote with spoken word/hip-hop artist Saul Williams). And say what you will about his either his voice or scalp, but Trent always puts on a great show with a high level of energy as he thrashes around and sings every word with gusto.
Mike: Unfortunately, Perry Farrell's voice hasn't held up quite as well as Reznor's, but even if he can't hit all the high notes anymore, he can still work the crowd like a consummate showman. Even after getting spontaneously doused with water by an overzealous fan, Farrell didn't miss a beat, throwing out a semi-obscure reference to some decade-old stage banter from Kettle Whistle: "How did you know we were thirsty? You don't have any Birkenstocks, do you? Those really hurt."
Benjamin: Maybe it's just me, but three-fourths of Jane's Addiction looked kinda...old. Granted, all four band members are in their early-to-mid 40s, but Eric Avery, Stephen Perkins, and especially Perry Farrell appeared particularly haggard. Conversely, Dave Navarro had the appearance of someone in their early 30s (I guess Carmen Electra's junk was like a fountain of youth). Farrell also spent most of their set prancing around the stage joyfully, which, while being entertaining, gave off a bit of a "creepy old queen" vibe (yes, I'm aware he's straight). That fruity-looking bathrobe/blouse/overcoat he wore at first didn't help matters. All in all, it felt like he was trying to re-capture the more capricious Jane's Addiction days of old, but it came off somewhat pathetic. It also seemed like Farrell and Navarro were battling to see who could mug for the audience more.
Mike: I can see how Farrell's "we love you all in the name of love" shtick could be grating, but it's just part of the band's personality. Farrell plays the role of androgynous frontman as good as anyone since David Bowie. It'd be way weirder if he came out and acted all normal. I agree that Navarro seems to have aged better than the other members, but I suspect that has less to do with Electra's magic va-jay-jay than good makeup artists. The guy's always had a thing for eyeliner.
Benjamin: Jane's Addiction was also a little bit inconsistent at times. While they were on fire during "Stop" and "Ain't No Right," and were on the money for the most past ("Pigs in Zen" also was quite excellent), "Been Caught Stealing" just wasn't as tight, sounding very much like something was off-kilter. Perhaps it was problems with timing or maybe the levels were off, but I almost had to check my eyes to make sure a different band was on stage.
Mike: Jane's Addiction's set wasn't without flaws. When Farrell fucked up the lyrics at the end of "Stop," he acknowledged it immediately afterward. "Don't expect perfection," he laughed. It wasn't perfect, but it definitely lived up to my expectations, which were pretty high coming into the show.
I thought Jane's Addiction put on the better all-around show, but I could've done without the faux "encore." Note to Farrell: when you say it's your last song and you haven't even played "Stop" or Jane Says" yet, nobody's buying it. To Reznor's credit, NIN took a much more workmanlike, "less talk, more rock" approach to its set, cranking out 18 songs in less than 90 minutes.
Benjamin: I'll definitely agree with you on appreciating Reznor's lack of between-song patter. But I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that JA would've packed more into their set. They blasted out a whopping 13 songs over the course of 80 minutes. Although it was nice to witness extended versions of "Ted, Just Admit It..." and "Mountain Song," it would've nicer to get more from the discography (like "Just Because" or anything off Strays for that matter).
Mike: It was great to see original bassist Eric Avery back in the fold for the first time since 1991. Thankfully, the band pretended that their Avery-less 2003 comeback album, Strays, never even existed. As oldies-heavy as NIN's set was, it had nothing on Jane's Addiction's. Every song was at least 18 years old, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I gained a whole new appreciation for "1%" in particular.
Benjamin: Plus, it was pretty groovy when drummer Stephen Perkins busted out with a steel drum on "Jane Says." (The hippies that were sitting next to me sure appreciated it). He also sports a leather kilt better than any man I know.
Last night: Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction at Cricket Wireless Pavilion
Better Than: Seeing Stabbing Westward followed by Porno for Pyros.
Mike: NIN is a great band, but I don't think it's possible to overstate the impact Jane's Addiction had on the music landscape. Along with the Pixies, they pretty much laid the foundation for the grunge explosion of the early '90s.
Benjamin: True, but Reznor also did his fair share of influencing, helping set the stage for a slew of mid-to-late 90s hard rock and nu-metal acts.
Random detail: In a nice touch, NIN's concert bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen snuck in a few death metal growls on "Mr. Self-Destruct."
Further listening: Gotta go with the classics -- The Downward Spiral and Nothing's Shocking.
By the way: I know we're always bitching about beer and/or merch prices, but they really do seem to get more and more absurd. There's a perverse pleasure, however, in saying out loud at the counter: "I'll have a $12 beer, please."
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One more thing: A security guard at Cricket claims that Thursday's Jimmy Buffet concert was much rowdier than NIN/JA, with many Parrotheads getting into fights and staging conga lines. Go figure.
Nine Inch Nails
4. "March of the Pigs"
5. "Something I Can Never Have."
9. "Mr. Self-Destruct"
10. "Banged and Blown Through"
11. "The Fragile"
12. "The Downward Spiral"
15. "Dead Souls"
16. "Down In It"
17. "Head Like a Hole"
1. "Three Days"
3. "Pigs in Zen"
4. "Ain't No Right"
5. "Then She Did..."
6. "Mountain Song"
8. "Been Caught Stealing"
9. "Ted, Just Admit It..."
10. "Ocean Size"
11. "Summertime Rolls" (encore)
12. "Stop" (encore)
13. "Jane Says" (encore)