But it isn't only that - Reznor makes over-the-top angst work in a way that few others can pull off, and a lot of that is his ability to connect with his audience and present himself as one of them. His songs are intensely personal, of course, but he manages to find a universal fragility in his own feelings, whether he's directing his hatred externally - as he does in "Burn," "Wish," "Head Like a Hole," "March of the Pigs," and "The Hand That Feeds," all heard last night - or internally - last night's examples include "The Fragile," "Hurt," "The Way Out Is Through," and "Echoplex." This could also help to explain why he's reportedly "retiring" Nine Inch Nails; he's at peace now and doesn't relate to all the self-loathing.
Then there’s Perry Farrell, who’s like the guy that corners you at a party and won't shut up. Maybe some of the stories he tells are mildly entertaining and kind of titilating, but after a while it gets a little tiresome. Chris Dahlen once compared him to a homeless guy ranting on a street corner while panhandling in a Pitchfork review, and that feels about right. It’s fine, banterish smalltalk to praise Boston for its role in the American Revolution– but maybe not in the middle of "Then She Did," the band's most haunting, beautiful song, and one of very few introspective moments in the band’s repertoire.
Farrell's onstage antics were not terribly distracting otherwise. He'd dance, strut, walk across the stage with his arms held away from his sides like somebody doing a bad John Wayne imitation. He struck poses where he'd jerk the microphone away from his face and freeze in position. He didn't appear to be showing any ill effects from his recent calf injury. His voice, always thin, sounded tentative and restrained - maybe he simply can't hit some of those notes nowadays – but the rest of the band sounded great. Say what you will about Dave Navarro, but the guy can play, as can Stephen Perkins. This was billed as a "proper" Jane's Addiction reunion (as opposed to their previous reunions) because of the presence of original bassist Eric Avery, but I'll be honest and say I'm not sure I would’ve been able to tell the difference.
At the end of their set, Nine Inch Nails retreated offstage for two minutes, tops, then came back to play "Hurt." Reznor's voice cracked with emotion while singing. It was tough not to feel moved by the sight of an older, wiser Reznor looking back on his dark times and feeling good about how he's able to walk away from it all on his own terms. It was classy and understated. In another even more telling contrast, the members of Jane's Addiction stayed on stage long after they finished playing their final encore ("Jane Says," a song I both like and wouldn't be upset if I never heard again), soaking in the adulation from the crowd. Or at least they would have been soaking in adulation had a good 80 percent of the crowd not already beaten a path to the exits while the band was still out there and well before the house lights came on. So maybe "clinging to whatever attention they could find" would be a more apt description.