If heads actually exploded at last night’s Nine Inch Nails show — as it seemed they might, especially when Bauhaus’s Peter Murphy descended from Terminal 5’s ceiling, hanging by his ankles from a chain, to sing “Reptile” — there would be an awful lot of combat boots and black Converse out on 56th Street’s sidewalk right now. As batman Murphy grabbed Reznor and threatened to either eat him or fling him into the crowd, the venue erupted in guttural cheers. But the ecstatic white dudes — who mostly walked in wearing black NIN concert tees, and exited shirtless — hadn’t come to see Murphy: This was the fourth and final New York date on Nine Inch Nails’ “Wave Goodbye” Tour. When the whole thing winds up September 6, Trent Reznor claims the band will never be seen together on a stage again.
But, Reznor pointed out, “We’re still going to keep making music, by the way.” And the music was Reznor’s primary concern as the band blazed deep into their catalogue, inducing crowd-surfing ecstasy with “Terrible Lie” and quelling it just as quickly with Reznor’s haunting piano on “La Mer” and “The Frail.” The encore of “Head Like a Hole,” the last minute of which the band kept played full throttle with stage lights off and the arena in complete darkness, was so fraught and awesome it made us wish we still had some high-school angst to release.
Longtime fans wistfully held out hope that Reznor would “destroy shit,” like in the old days, but the only element of danger — other than the tambourines Reznor kept flinging to fans, and the beefy mid-thirties crowd surfers — was the oppressive heat in the room. “It’s fucking hot in this place. Jesus!” said Reznor. Other than introducing the band, Murphy, and repeatedly thanking everyone, Reznor focused on singing, ending the show with “Strange Kind of Love” (apparently Reznor’s favorite song of Murphy’s), “Bela Legosi’s Dead,” and Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution.” “There’s so much to say about Trent, who doesn’t say much,” Murphy observed. “He keeps quiet about him, and just really does the job.” And with that, the band kicked in once again.