MILAN, Italy The first words sung by Trent Reznor onstage at Alcatraz sounded as if the Nine Inch Nails mastermind were telling Wednesday's sold-out crowd why they had to wait almost five years to hear new music by the band.
"So impressed with all you do/ Tried so hard to be like you/ Flew too high and burned the wing/ Lost my faith in everything," Reznor sang on "Somewhat Damaged," the opening track of NIN's recently released third album,The Fragile.
The concert was the band's first show ever in Italy and the second engagement on an 11-date European tour, which began Sunday in Barcelona, Spain.
"I waited for this concert quite a lot," 29-year-old fan Alessandro Grani said before the show. "Now I'm really curious to see how they're gonna perform live."
He was not to be disappointed. Reznor, dressed all in black, came onstage accompanied by a four-piece band Jerome Dillon (drums), Danny Lohner (keyboards), Charlie Clouser and Robin Finck (guitar) that turned Nine Inch Nails' experimental and layered studio sound into an aggressive live mixture of raging guitars and ambient electronic background.
During the first part of the set, Reznor, who occasionally played guitar, included some of Nine Inch Nails' most violent tunes, such as "No You Don't" (RealAudio excerpt), from The Fragile, and "March of the Pigs," from the band's second album, 1994's The Downward Spiral. Both songs rocked even harder than the original studio versions.
NIN also delivered powerful visual effects the decaying atmosphere created by such songs as "The Wretched" was enhanced by flashing neon lights, as the frontman held the microphone stand tightly, his face pinpointed by a spotlight. During "La Mer/The Great Below," images of the sea were projected on a sheet that covered the stage.
The 90-minute, 18-song set also included older hits, such as "Head Like a Hole," from Nine Inch Nails' 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. But the greatest ovation from the enthusiastic crowd was for the closing pair of Downward Spiral songs, "Closer" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Hurt."
"The show and the music were very aggressive, yet measured," concluded a satisfied Grani at the end of the concert. "There wasn't any excess."