Yeah, I have something to report, and yeah, it concerns Nine Inch Nails, so if you're over me when it comes to this topic, there are, no doubt, loads of way more entertaining destinations for you to choose from. So, SUCK IT!
As I may have mentioned around here before, I think objectivity is a pretty overrated virtue, especially when reviewing the effectiveness and beauty of a work of art. I subscribe whole-heartedly to the notion that you've got no business throwing in your two cents on someone's artistic blood, sweat, and tears if you don't love it a little... or a lot, even.
As J. Hillis Miller so beautifully put it, and I have quoted here before: "The proper model for the relation of the critic to the work of art is not that of a scientist to physical objects, but that of one man to another in charity. I can love another person, and know him as only love can know him without in the least abdicating my own beliefs. Love wants the other person as he is in all of his recalcitrant particularity." And, fuck it, people: I love the Holy Hell out of Trent Reznor and his extra loud art project, and I don't care who knows it.
Also, there's no such thing as objectivity, so don't look for any of it here.
Having said that, I know I have expressed some reservations about how things were shaping up in the Nine Inch Nails rockshow. After seeing him at Coachella, I felt that, in view of the change in magnitude that comes of leaving off with the hardcore extremity that used to be Reznor's stock-in-trade, he ought to ditch the back catalogue in favor of the new songs, which might place before us more of a sense of what is gained in his newfound state of healthful sobriety than old numbers that have totally been delivered with as much intensity as could ever be expected in years past, and can never truly be revisited. I am happy to report, however, that my fears were entirely unfounded, and I will henceforward place more faith in that person as he is, and especially in his recalcitrant particularity, which is FUCKING GLORIOUS.
Now, get ready for a lot of episodes of ALL CAPS, people, because I am pretty stoked, and there's no way I can resist MAKING SURE THAT IS PERFECTLY CLEAR, because I saw the Nine Inch Nails rockshow on May 30th and 31st at a small club in San Diego with about 2000 of my most tightly packed Nine Inch Nails loving compatriots, and it RULED.
For me, the most memorable moment came late in the second night's performance, as Reznor rocked his latest single, "The Hand That Feeds". At one point, he stood back on the stage for a moment and looked up at the roiling tumult before him, all sweaty crowd surfers, raised fists and devil horns aloft, every voice raised in unison with his, and seemed to pause for a moment in his mind, and really see it. Then, he smiled -- just the tiniest little bit of a upturn at the edges of his mouth -- as if he were just in that moment taking in what he had wrought, and seeing that it was good, before baring his teeth and setting to choking his somewhat battered guitar and pounding his head-banging rock with renewed abandon, and truly, with joy.
After more than a decade on the Nine Inch Nails tip, during which I have seen the thrillingly willful destruction of all bad shit, a horrific and terrifying destruction of self, and years of ominous silence from The Empire of Dirt, it is with the greatest possible pleasure that I tell you that this week's Nine Inch Nails rockshow in San Diego was nothing short of joyous and celebratory. All the old songs felt re-imagined and reclaimed by a new man -- one who likes himself, and who loves his work -- and the new songs? Well, I don't know if I can fit any more superlatives into this particular post.
Jesus. THE RELIEF, people.
I left the venue both nights feeling simply elated, my head spinningly full of new and thrilling notions, breathing cool, ocean air, seeing the black of the night sky, and relishing the unbelievable opportunity to LIVE MY LIFE. I mean, what more can you hope for from a work of art? I've always wondered what a man does after making a record like The Downward Spiral, and achieving the incredible feat of performative meaning of something as eviscerating as Reznor managed in those days. I can see now that the transformation of that isn't something that can be thought up whole, but is a process that must be lived in pieces and parts; made real everyday so that what was once desperation, fear, and sickly neediness can become strength, courage, and the ability to truly give something. Vital information.
The notion that keeps blooming in my mind, more than any other, is that of Trent Reznor's enormous generosity as a performer. I was struck, for the first time, by his respect for his own work, and for himself as an artist; and as an extension of that, for his audience. There is no way that Reznor would ever take the stage without being prepared to give it all with total commitment and savage seriousness. In saying that, I don't mean to suggest that he is humorlessly self-serious, because that widely-held misconception about his alleged relentless angst needs to be put to rest in the worst way, but that, essentially, he truly and soulfully stands behind everything he does, and has ever done, with every single part of himself, and that is PURE GOLD.
All you who can't see into the heart of it? Your loss. I've hardly ever seen anything more beautiful.