That’s why when life presents you an opportunity to see the Nine Inch Nails and The Jesus and Mary Chain at the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving, you get tickets first and then worry about getting a babysitter. Or, you take your kid(s) with you because they also need to experience it, and if they’re especially young, they wear ear protection because you’re a good parent who understands that eardrums are highly sensitive at a young age.
If any child happened to be present last night, there is a good chance that they were given an unsolicited TED Talk from their dad about the old days, when concert tickets would be purchased at a physical box office. All tickets for this event were sold at the venue in person in an attempt to circumvent online scalpers, and given the intimacy of the venue, it’s easy to understand why they would resort to such measures.
Nine Inch Nails normally play larger rooms. In 2008, they played the American Airlines Center as part of the Lights In the Sky Tour. In 2014, they played what is now the Dos Equis Pavilion with Soundgarden. Trent Reznor’s history with Dallas goes back to 1990 when the band played The Video Bar (which is now the building next door to the 7-Eleven on Elm and Good Latimer,) but despite that, Dallas shows have been few and far between.
During their humble beginnings, Nine Inch Nails were selected as touring support for Scottish noise pop/shoegaze legends The Jesus and Mary Chain, and because there’s still some beauty left in this miserable world, Reznor decided to pay it forward and bring them on the road for this run.
Following the sparsely attended, 25-minute set of electronic artist Daniel Avery, The Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage at 7:50 p.m. to a slightly larger but criminally unenthusiastic audience. The room immediately darkened as they played the signature drum riff and distorted, saccharine G-C chord progression in “Just Like Honey.” Distortion, reverb and guitar feedback were disappointingly toned down throughout the band’s 50-minute set, but that did provide an advantage in helping the audience better hear vocalist Jim Reid’s voice, which was more articulate and less droning than expected.
The Jesus and Mary Chain were, for the most part, not engaging. They did play some classics off Psychocandy and Automatic, but the crowd didn’t know their biggest hits from Adam. It also did not help that they made no banter with the audience, which almost made the set seem like a chore.
Once the band exited the stage at 8:41 p.m., the food and retail space started to empty, and the showroom started to fill. As the fog machines on the stage started emitting enough smoke to obstruct the view of the back line, intermittent cheering erupted from the crowd as the crew conducted a brief line check. The crowd’s enthusiasm culminated at 9:18 p.m., as the sampled sound of a man being beaten by a prison guard started blaring.
“I am the voice inside your head,” sang Reznor, as the band kicked off their highly anticipated set with “Mr. Self Destruct.”
Reznor wears his experimental influences on his sleeve with this song. The abrasive machine gun drum loops are reminiscent of Einsturzende Neubauten’s early output, and the blistering guitars sound like something one would hear from Swans.
Nine Inch Nails followed this up with “Wish,” a track so grating that even Behemoth’s cover sounded dull in comparison. The song’s aggression is manifested both musically and lyrically. The crowd sang along, reciting lyrics such as, “No new tale to tell, 26 years, on my way to Hell.”
By the time the band played their 2017 cut “Less Than,” Reznor nonchalantly said, “Let’s go, pigs” as the band performed “March of the Pigs,” a song with an unusual 29/8 time signature that somehow manages to be a headbang-worthy ear worm all the same.
Nine Inch Nails went through a career-spanning set filled with classics such as “Head Like a Hole” and “Gave Up,” as well as newer tracks such as “Copy Of A” and “All the Love in the World.” Reznor displayed an impressive versatility with various instruments, playing guitar on many cuts, a tambourine on “Less Than” and even a saxophone on “God Break Down the Door.”
Reznor took time to pay tribute to the late Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, who died earlier this year in Las Vegas, and his brother Dimebag Darrell, who was murdered in Columbus, Ohio, in 2004. He also honored the memory of his late friend David Bowie, who took Nine Inch Nails on tour in 1995. After expressing sadness at Bowie’s death in 2017, Reznor performed a cover of “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
After coming onstage for a highly demanded encore, the band played two newer tracks and closed with “Hurt,” the quintessential anthem of heroin addiction and self-harm that was famously reimagined in a different context by Johnny Cash.
The diverse palette of influences incorporated so perfectly into Nine Inch Nails’ music is truly impressive. The styles of artists such as David Bowie, Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Throbbing Gristle, Devo, Front 242, The Cure and many others were decipherable. Some tracks were uncompromisingly raucous, some were dance-worthy. Despite the stark contrast between, say, “Wish” and “The Hand That Feeds,” Nine Inch Nails have perfectly crafted an exclusive style, and it showed last night.
Mr. Self Destruct
March of the Pigs
This Isn’t the Place
The Perfect Drug
Ahead of Ourselves
God Break Down the Door
Copy of A
I’m Afraid of Americans (David Bowie)
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
All the Love in the World
Over and Out