JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
WEST VALLEY CITY - Nine Inch Nails arrived at the E Center on Tuesday for its first Utah appearance in five years on a tour dogged by questions.
Would band leader Trent Reznor deliver the type of explosive performance he is known for while leading a newly sober, buffed-out lifestyle? More importantly, are the people who helped turn Reznor's blend of rock, electronic and Gothic elements into platinum-selling, mainstream music still interested?
The answers, in short: Reznor was an animated and emotive front man, and the fans filling about half of the E Center were a responsive bunch, if not the biggest crowd of the tour.
Reznor and company opened with three straight songs from the new "With Teeth" album, a move that threatened the show's momentum at first. But strong versions of "Love Is Not Enough," "You Know What You Are?" and "The Line Begins to Blur" kept the energy high until the band reached more familiar territory in the set list.
The one-two punch of Nine Inch Nails' staples, "March of the Pigs" and "Terrible Lie" was a thrilling reminder of the power the band evoked as far back as 15 years ago.
"The Wretched" and "Closer," one of the most sexually direct songs ever to hit the Top 40, led into the second portion of the show. "Burn," from the "Natural Born Killers" soundtrack Reznor produced, was a moody centerpiece of the show, moving from cool electronica to straight-forward metal-bashing.
The intricate imagery on the video screens enhanced the stylistic changes of the music, whether it was the bright lights during "Wish" and a hypnotic "Thin" or the computer-graphic background during the throbbing "Only."
"Hurt," the song from "The Downward Spiral" album that took on a new life when Johnny Cash recorded it shortly before his death, was a lighter-fueled singalong near show's end, with Reznor performing the song solo on a keyboard until the band joined him for a majestic ending.
Utah was drummer Josh Freese's first show of the tour after Jerome Dillon dropped off because of health reasons, and Nine Inch Nails didn't seem to miss a beat.
The band's combination of pure aggression and avant garde artistic moves carried the show through its amped-up finale, "Head Like Hole."