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Friday Night: Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction at the Cruzan Amphitheatre

photo by Ian Witlen
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performing at the Cruzan Amphitheatre Friday night. Click here to view the full slideshow.
Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction
With Street Sweeper Social Club
Friday, May 8, 2009
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach

Better Than: Sex.

The Review:

Friday night in West Palm Beach marked the kick-off of one of the summer concert season's biggest tickets: NINJA 2009, a double-headliner vehicle for Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction. The tour is being billed as a welcome back for Jane's Addiction, and a farewell for now for Nine Inch Nails, and expectations were high The bands famously shared the stage at the first Lollapalooza, and with hit after hit in each of their back catalogs, as well as a shared fanbase with misty memories of the 1990s, there was a lot to live up to. Thankfully, each band delivered.

And although the bands are billed as co-headliners, well, somebody has to go first. On this outing it's Nine Inch Nails, who took the amphitheatre stage on Friday at the relatively early, and barely dark, time of 7:45 p.m. The 2009 version of NIN features Trent Reznor with longtime guitarist/synth player Robin Finck, as well as 2008 addition Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass. The newest member, though, is Ilan Rubin, a 20-year-old former member of Lost Prophets who replaced Josh Freese earlier this year.

Opening with the melancholic "Home," from 2005's With Teeth, Reznor was in fine form. No scrawny 1990s physique here; Reznor in 2k9 is clean-cut and muscle bound, almost literally larger than life. With a lean live line-up, Reznor played the musical renaissance man, switching often between guitar, keyboards, and synths. His voice remained spot-on, as powerful as ever, and combined with a spare but throbbing light show, the overall effect was almost sensory overload -- but in a good way. The set, which spanned about an hour and a half, dug broadly across the band's repertoire, mixing numbers from the latest album, The Slip, with obvious earlier hits like "Heresy" and "Mr. Self Destruct." There were even two covers -- one of Gary Numan's "Metal," and another of David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans."

And if you're wondering about "Closer," well, that's because the band didn't play it. Nine Inch Nails exited the stage after the propulsive "Head Like a Hole" ... and then failed, as most would assume, to come back for an "encore" to play its infamous hit. When the band didn't return, there was a round of real booing. And then the house lights came on, and then more, louder booing.  Reznor later revealed on Twitter that a PA problem prevented the encore -- unfortunate, but the rest of the performance more than made up for it. Reznor again showing his live capabilities only makes his upcoming planned absence sadder.

Jane's Addiction, of course, then took the stage, boasting the original lineup of Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, and Eric Avery, some 18 years since they all last performed together onstage. Opening the set was "Three Days " from the band's 1990 smash Ritual De Lo Habitual, and continued with hits like "Ain't No Right," "Ted Just Admit It," and "Been Caught Stealing." Farrell was in full 1990s-style garb -- shiny pants, feathery wings -- and it could feel as though band and audience were in a time warp. Ferrell, in fact, directly addressed the nostalgia factor by asking at one point, "So does it feel like the old days?"

It did, but in a good way; although the sound mix started out a little muddy, the band was at its full tripped-out weirdness. No surprise on the closer here, though -- the last song was, of course, its biggest hit, the one most ready-made for a mass singalong: "Jane Says." With the original Jane's Addiction lineup in tact for the tour, now fans can only hope for some new material in the near future.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:
I was that girl who used to have a NIN sticker on her car. Then, someone stole it. Bastards.

Random Detail: Come to think of it, Perry Farrell seemed to be channeling Brian Eno with his outfit.

By The Way: Trent Reznor is still ostensibly working on turning his 2007 album, Year Zero, into a conceptual film.

-- Nicole Hoffecker and Arielle Castillo

Set List, Nine Inch Nails:

-"Somewhat Damaged"
-"March Of The Pigs"
-"Metal" (Gary Numan cover)
-"The Becoming"
-"I'm Afraid Of Americans" (David Bowie cover)
-"Mr. Self-Destruct"
-"The Fragile"
-"Gone, Still"
-"Right Where It Belongs"
-"The Way Out Is Through"
-"The Hand That Feeds"
-"Head Like A Hole"

Set List, Jane's Addiction:

-"Three Days"
-"Ain't No Right"
-"Pigs In Zen"
-"Then She Did..."
-"Been Caught Stealing"
-"Ted, Just Admit It..."
-"Mountain Song"
-"Ocean Size"
-"Up the Beach"
-"Jane Says"

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