Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction, live at the Comcast Center, June 3, 2009
Some time in the late 90s, Trent Reznor holed himself up in a house near the ocean. Ostensibly, he was there to write some music. And while he did use that time to begin piecing together some of the songs that would become Nine Inch Nails's 1999 double-album The Fragile, Reznor - struggling with various addictions and personal problems - really retreated to that house because he wanted to kill himself.
At least, that’s the story Reznor told from the stage at the Comcast Center on Wednesday night. And it has a happy ending, of course: Reznor is still alive, healthy, clean, and has even found love. He mentioned that he is planning to wed his fiance, West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig, at that very house, to exorcise the demons – perhaps once and for all. After telling us this, he proceeded to play "La Mer," an instrumental composition he wrote during this dark period, as his way of demonstrating that he has overcome his demons, and he's out on the other side of it all now.
Same stage, an hour later: Jane's Addiction is playing, consecutively, a song about Jesus Christ participating in a threesome with two debauched "Marys," and one about the benefits of finding comfort in the arms of prostitutes. The contrast was noticeable: a one-man army laying out his troubles for all to see; a band who celebrate the state of being completely untroubled by anything. Even though it's reasonably well-known that Farrell and company have battled addiction and other such troubles in their past as well, it still feels like they're incapable of much emotion beyond "Hey man, relax, we're all just trying to have a good time here," although Farrell did ask a guy who threw a projectile at him to leave. (For the record, the projectile appeared to be . . . a piece of paper.)
Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction seem frozen in time, veterans of an era when anyone who played guitar and wasn't hair-metal could get lumped into the "alternative" bin, there to fight for airplay against bands they had absolutely nothing in common with – say, R.E.M. and the Pixies. Take a look at their respective landmarks: Pretty Hate Machine (on the verge of its 20th anniversary) and Nothing's Shocking (already passed that milestone last year). They're both great albums, yet Reznor's body of work is more relevant in 2009 than that made by the JA to his NIN. And sure, part of that is the simple fact that Reznor has continued making quality albums into this decade, something many bands with shorter careers than Nine Inch Nails have been unable to do. (As regards both bands: It helps if you put out records no oftener than once every five years.)
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