Rexall Place, Edmonton - November 16, 2005

-- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

EDMONTON - Our fast paced world demands abbreviations. Kentucky Fried Chicken is too long, so we go to KFC, while Nine Inch Nails becomes NIN. Weird.

It's too bad, really. Nine Inch Nails - the length of the spikes used to affix Jesus to the cross, presumably - just sounds a lot more menacing, dangerous, cool and fun. Because that's exactly the kind of show the band delivered at Rexall Place last night.

Shrouded by smoke, illuminated by white strobe lights, cheered on by more than 10,000 fans, supported by a battery of robotic sequencers, Trent Reznor and his venerable industrial rock band pumped out songs riddled with angst, doubt, fear, despair, hate, self-loathing - and melody! There's the trick, really. There's no point in being so deep and dark if you don't hear a single. Nine Inch Nails played all the hits last night, even the one with the memorable lyric, "I wanna f--- you like an animal." Nice.

It got a big sludgy there at the beginning. The band opened with Love is Not Enough - nice sentiment - playing the entire song behind a filmy curtain. It was uphill from there.

The show bounced between gloomy and furious, between depressingly dreary and absolutely insane. It was basically a bipolar disorder set to music. March of the Pigs was an early highlight, kicking the intensity up to the maximum level allowed by law.

Over a breakneck beat, Reznor and his guitarist leapt around the stage with wild abandon, heedless of tipped mic stands or the raging mosh pit in front of them. Cut to a delicate piano lick during the intro in a song called Wretched.

The curtain was lowered later for at least three tunes as a movie was projected - showing people dancing, a dying rose, explosions, a hunting baboon, ripples in water, a soldier holding a gun to a woman's head, etc. - to what message, I have no idea save for the idea that the world is both horrible and beautiful.

The crowd was as intense as the band. Even Reznor said he was "impressed." The show even had to be stopped at one point so the barricade in front of the stage could be fixed, so great was the pressure from the writhing, crowd-surfing fans. The natives grew restless until the barrier was reinforced and Nine Inch Nails returned - bigger, louder and darker than ever. Rarely has complaining in a hard rock context been so entertaining.

New rule: A rock band with only two members may only play half as long as a "regular" band. Whatever it was that Toronto "drum 'n' bass" duo Death From Above 1979 did opening the show last night, 10 minutes covered it. The rest was noisy filler, which was too bad since the band delivered some hair-raising moments, including a hit song dealing with romance, and yes, they have a hit song. Sort of. The drummer/singer thanked Edmonton for playing his band on the radio, adding, "There's not a lot of people playing us on the radio. I wouldn't if I were them, either. It's kind of scary."

It's a hollow boast. DFA79 wasn't nearly as scary as hoped - unlike the second band on our progressive bill o' fare last night, Queens of the Stone Age. Now there's some frightening rock band. It's a full quartet, too.

An art rock band lucky enough to have been forged at the height of the grunge movement instead of 30 years ago, QOTSA lived up to its reputation as a "stoner rock" band if only because of the incredible number of doobies that were sparked up when they hit the stage.

With a hard rocking edge that touched on everything from blues to jazz, plus strange and atonal melodies topped by ferocious vocals and wild guitar solos, this band could be best described as "trippy." Extra special bonus points for the way singer Josh Homme dealt with the heckler who suggested QOTSA "get off the stage" to make way for NIN. That hapless oaf will think twice about heckling the warm-up band next time, eh? What an SOB.


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