Compaq Center, Houston US 


May 22, 2000


Audio recordings

16 Head Like a Hole
added by Gabe Bragg
11 The Mark Has Been Made
added by Gabe Bragg
03 Sin
added by Gabe Bragg
02 Terrible Lie
added by Gabe Bragg
07 The Wretched
added by Gabe Bragg
12 Wish
added by Gabe Bragg
10 The Great Below
added by Gabe Bragg
19 Starfuckers, Inc.
added by Gabe Bragg
14 Suck
added by Gabe Bragg
17 The Day the World Went Away
added by Gabe Bragg
05 Piggy
added by Gabe Bragg
15 Closer
added by Gabe Bragg
01 The New Flesh / Pinion
added by Gabe Bragg
06 The Frail
added by Gabe Bragg
08 Gave Up
added by Gabe Bragg
09 La Mer
added by Gabe Bragg
18 Even Deeper
added by Gabe Bragg
04 March of the Pigs
added by Gabe Bragg
20 Hurt
added by Gabe Bragg


NOTE: This was the second of four "magical" shows that I attended in 2000 which made me fall completely in love with live music!

FRAGILITY 2.0!!! Nine Inch Nails will always have a special place in my heart. From the moment I first heard 'The Downward Spiral' I was a fanatic. Of course, I first heard NIN on the radio and TV with the "I wanna fuck you like an animal" song. It definitely piqued my interest, so I went out and bought the cassette ... and my brain was melted. I then sought out older NIN releases, each of which had completely different styles, but all of which utterly captivated me. Thus began my initial forays into electronic and industrial music, and I soon began discovering some amazing bands (too many to name here!) My young mind was reeling with all of these revelations, but it was Trent's artistry that had mesmerized me in the first place and led me to this breakthrough. So I could not wait to hear the next NIN album!

Unfortunately, five long years would separate the release dates for 'The Downward Spiral' and 'The Fragile'. A remix album and a live VHS recording were released in between them. And Trent also produced a couple of Marilyn Manson's albums (which I thoroughly enjoyed!) There was a David Bowie collaboration, a couple of soundtracks ... all of which were excellent, but still no new album!

Then, in the summer of '99, we were teased with a single for "The Day the World Went Away". I will admit, at first I was underwhelmed by it. Close-minded spot judgements were an immature fault of mine at that time. However, I did not let the disappointment take over. Next, I saw the Nine Inch Nails "The Fragile" VMA performance on MTV about a month later (9-9-99 ... I still have it recorded on VHS somewhere.) Again, I wasn't sure what to think because the new style of the material was so unexpected in relation to my preconcieved notions of what NIN was. Finally, a couple weeks later, the album was released. I bought 'The Fragile' on the day it came out. A double album!?! I still remember the anticipation I felt on the way home from the store. And then I listened to the album over and over and over again. When I heard all of the songs in context, I knew it was another masterpiece! I was blown away! I loved every bit of it! And I still do.

So, finally I'll get to the concert review. I've never looked forward to a show, before or since, with as much excitement. All of my friends were really looking forward to that night as well. We had seats on the lower level because we couldn't get floor tickets. My brother David went, along with my best friend Erick, and a couple of co-workers I had met fairly recently (David H. and Melissa). [SIDE NOTE: David H. was a guy I worked with at a hotel way back in the day, and we both liked one another's taste in music. We bonded over NIN, Manson, Tool, etc. We are best friends to this day. I stood in his wedding a few years back!]

A PERFECT CIRLE was the opening act that night. I was already a big fan of Maynard James Keenan from his work with Tool. I was curious about this band which I mistakenly thought was a side project. APC's first album hadn't even been released yet ... it came out the next day after the concert. I wasn't familiar with any of the songs or any of the bandmembers. Being ignorant then, my expectations again caused me to be underwhelmed. I had a much greater appreciation for APC when I saw them perform a few months later. Although there were definitely flashes of splendor from Billy Howerdel and Maynard that night, I was still foolishly comparing them to the heavier output of Tool and thinking they didn't really measure up. Most of us were already looking past them and waiting for the main course ...

NINE INCH NAILS! I had never seen a stage show this intricate at that time. The dazzling light arrays and the three huge video screens behind the band were pretty amazing. The music was surging and ebbing and flowing all around us. So fucking heavy and beautiful! We didn't sit down once the whole show. At many points that night, I felt like I wanted to dissolve into the ether because my body just couldn't contain my sensory inputs. During these moments, I felt so confined by the rows of seats around me, that I vowed to never attend another concert if I didn't have general admission tickets. I have kept that oath to this day, because of the feelings of constraint I had that night. I wanted to completely immerse myself in the aura of the music, to be engulfed and swept away by the atmosphere and the ambience. I wanted to move freely within the currents of music! I wanted to experience the crush and the frenzy of all the like-minded spirits around me! I was at this fucking awesome show, yet I had to settle for dancing maniacally in front of my seat.

I feel blessed to have experienced what I consider to be the "classic" NIN lineup of Robin Finck, Danny Lohner, and Charlie Clouser. Only Podboy <Chris Vrenna> was missing - Jerome Dillon was playing drums for this tour. Everyone put on an excellent show, and Trent's performance was superb! It took me quite some time to come down from my experiences that night. Magnificent! Bravo!

1. The New Flesh/Pinion (intro)
2. Terrible Lie
3. Sin
4. March of the Pigs
5. Piggy
6. The Frail
7. The Wretched
8. Gave Up
9. La Mer
10. The Great Below
11. The Mark Has Been Made
12. Wish
13. Complication
14. Suck
15. Closer
16. Head Like a Hole

17. The Day the World Went Away
18. Even Deeper
19. Starfuckers, Inc.
20. Hurt

Reznor, NIN nail it at Compaq Center
by Michael D. Clark for The Houston Chronicle [2000]

There's a fine line between telling a story and setting a mood with music. Nine Inch Nails impresario Trent Reznor straddles it like an equestrian. One listen to last year's double disc Goth-melodrama, The Fragile, and a mental picture is formed of how it would translate to the stage. The song arcs follow the rise and fall of some morbid, self-hating being similar to the rock star protagonist of Pink Floyd's The Wall. One imagines a show that starts slow, gradually pulling the tension taut, then exploding into a loathing stream of screams before finding salvation at the end. It's how one guesses that Reznor would try to emulate David Bowie after touring with him five years ago.

On Monday night, Reznor and NIN took the stage at a capacity-filled Compaq Center and shamed anyone for even suggesting such self-indulgence. What Nine Inch Nails has done for the 'Fragility V2.0' tour ('Version 1.0' was the international leg of the tour that took them to Europe, Japan and Australia earlier this year) is to revamp and invigorate the near-perfect shows it did in support of its last album, The Downward Spiral, in 1994. It's hard to believe that the pale, gaunt kid that Reznor was when he opened the first Lollapalooza in 1991 now carries this type of combustion on stage. Dressed in fatigues tanned for desert combat, he opened Monday's show with a violent barrage of '90s hits, including "Terrible Lie" and "Sin" from its 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine.

There was no dramatic pause for tension, but the 95-minute set did tell a story with illumination. The flexible lighting rigs had choreographed bends and sways that created moods and intensity throughout the show. At points, the images on three beds of LED screens - the same technology U2 used for the 'Popmart' tour - were the star of the show. During the steel elliptical melodies of "March of the Pigs", the lights were almost sitting on the heads of Reznor and his four-man band, adding claustrophobia to purposely uncomfortable industrial assault. Haze, strobe beams and a bank of halogens left only the musician's silhouettes decipherable. The combined effect to the unadjusted eye was like watching war footage from CNN on an IMAX screen.

Reznor eased into the untuned keyboard plinking of "Piggy", leading the crowd through a calm mantra of the chorus, "Nothing can stop me now." As he did, the lights rose above him like a strategic exhale. It was here that Nine Inch Nails eased into songs from The Fragile. Hunched over a keyboard, he pounded out the haunting grind of "The Wretched" as acid-soaked rainbows oozed on the screens behind him. "The Great Below" featured a sonar squeel of guitars and theremin squelches that would excite a dolphin while "La Mer" serves as the vulnerable ballad much like "Hurt" did on The Downward Spiral.

Even as Reznor creates his finest music, the lack of fan recognition for anything other than the recent single (entitled "Starsuckers Inc." on the radio version) suggests the window for industrial rock in the mainstream has closed. There were not a lot of teens in the mostly young adult crowd. Most got more excited over an obscure old song like "Suck" than an orchestrated ballad like "The Day the World Went Away". What they came for was the hits and, to Nine Inch Nails' credit, they weren't disappointed. The show closed with a radio-friendly package that included the electric storm of "Closer", "Head Like a Hole" and a revamped version of the ballad "Hurt", featuring pounding drums where sparse piano used to be.
added by Gabe Bragg

Concert added by Tony Crawfish
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