Back in 1994, I was a HUGE Nine Inch Nails fan. I had gotten into them with the release of their debut, Pretty Hate Machine, fell in love after Broken, then became a huge fan when The Downward Spiral was released. This was a band (man) doing amazing things with music. Naturally, when they announced a tour in late 1994, I had to go see them perform live. They were making a stop at Madison Square Garden and I wasn’t missing out.
Driving into the city on a Friday night is never fun by any stretch of the imagination, but in the mid-nineties, it was a lot worse than today. We got through the Lincoln Tunnel without incident, but once we were through and heading toward the Garden, I was freaking out. There were hordes of people crawling the streets just walking in front of our car without a second thought or a care in the world. I almost hit three of them! And of course, when I was younger, I had a bad temper. I stopped the car immediately and my wife (at the time) took over the wheel, deciding for both of us that it would be better if she drove. She proceeded to get us to the Garden without further complications.
Nine Inch Nails had brought two opening acts on the road with them for this tour, The Jim Rose Circus and Marilyn Manson. The Jim Rose Circus isn’t a musical act, they are the largest collection of sideshow freaks and strange onstage acts this side of Barnum and Bailey’s. I don’t recall much about them, except that the acts were hard to see from the 400s where we were sitting. This would have been a really cool event to witness were we a lot closer to the stage, but from our vantage point, it was hard to tell what was happening.
The events from Marilyn Manson I remember well enough. They had just released their first album that year and were getting some radio play with Get Your Gunn. I had heard a couple of their songs, but didn’t really know what to expect. Their performance was ok, not stellar, but in their defense, they were also the opening act. The sound wasn’t yet impeccable, and they were still adjusting to performing in large theaters.
Toward the end of their performance, a wicked cover of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) was performed and that grabbed audience attention. It was a decidedly different version, but a worthwhile cover. Shortly after that, Marilyn decided it was time to get naked. He literally stripped down to nothing but his birthday suit and danced around the stage. I’m not sure what his thought process was, but as a heterosexual male, this is not something I wanted to see. It actually made me think less of him as a performer and I honestly believe that one incident is why I never got into the band.
After Marilyn left, we were highly anticipating the headliners. Nine Inch Nails were about to storm the stage and I couldn’t wait to hear them. I wanted to know what they would open with, how many of the newer songs would they be playing, how long were they going to play for, etc? I was psyched and raring to go.
The opening buildup of Pinion came across the speakers and we knew it was time. Pinion went into Mr. Self Destruct which went right into SIN. It was an awesome way to open the show. SIN was performed album perfect and the show was off and running.
Trent and the band had their energy level up from the minute they took the stage. There was plenty of screaming, pounding drums, loud guitars, and happy, insane fans. On the floor there was a pit of mosh dancers, not visible to those of us that sat near the ceiling, but we knew it was there.
March of the Pigs, Reptile, and Gave Up all sounded impeccable, and even though it was near the end of their tour, Nine Inch Nails sounded in mid-tour form that night.
Wish brought out the headbanging, hard rocking, heavy metaler in me, and I was jumping up and down, singing at the top of my lungs, pounding on the seat in front of me, and generally going crazy.
One of the coolest moments of the night came with the performance of Hurt. A large screen was dropped to the stage and a mini-movie was played as the band performed. The song itself is amazing on its own, but hearing it in a live setting with the added images, pushed it over the top. It was spectacular.
Head Like A Hole was the big show closer and everyone in the Garden was going nuts. This was a powerful song that the entire audience sang along to, as loud as they could. Seeing it performed live was a real treat and worth the price of admission (which was not too much back then).
The encore was strong, with Closer (Trent’s biggest hit at the time), Dead Souls (a lovely song from The Crow soundtrack), and Something I Can Never Have (the smooth ballad from Nine Inch Nail’s debut). When the concert ended and the last song of the encore was played, I was exhausted. Nine Inch Nails had come to New York City, played the world’s most famous arena, and kicked our ass with their brand of rock and roll. It was an experience like no other and one that I was proud to have been a part of.
Mr. Self Destruct
March of the Pigs
Happiness In Slavery
The Downward Spiral
The Only Time
Down In It
Head Like A Hole
Something I Can Never Have