Tuesday, June 09, 2009

NIN/JA at PNC Bank Arts Center

In cooking, it is the combination of the ingredients, the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, that the gourmet enjoys the most. A freshly-caught fish, for example, no matter how delicious on its own, can become a part of a far more sublime experience when combined with the right supplementary flavors. In the same way, while each portion of the NIN/JA experience was a good time by itself, it was the combination of the three bands, the surprisingly wide variety of styles of "rock," and the limitations on their set times that forced a focus on stronger material that made NIN/JA a much better show in sum than it might well have been in pieces - and I say that even after my sublime Nine Inch Nails experience in northern New Jersey last summer.

The Street Sweeper Social Club came out swinging: all five members in glasses and military-style jackets, laying down a funky rock track that supported Boots Riley as he bopped and spun around the stage. All three bands had all kinds of energy, but the Street Sweeper Social Club had the kind of energy you see in footage of classic punk rock shows, each member careening through their space like meteorites on a mission of collision. Their music was infectious, Boots looked he'd originated the concept of cool, and seeing Tom Morello live makes all of those great sounds he's put into recordings seem as pale as shadows in sunlight: when he gets going, the man absolutely smokes.

Nine Inch Nails opted for a set list that focused pretty heavily on the rage-filed portions on their catalog, with strong doses of Broken, The Downward Spiral, Year Zero, and the songs of alienation from The Slip (think "1,000,000" and "Echoplex"). The energy might have dragged a bit in the middle with a selection from The Fragile and one of the tracks from Ghosts - which is tougher to translate live without the heavy visuals from Lights in the Sky - but a strong finish with a string of the band's hits ("Survivalism," "The Hand That Feeds," "Head Like A Hole") roped in the crowd in time for a closing rendition of "Hurt" in the deepening twilight. My favorite moment from the whole set: watching Robin Finck stalk around the stage during "Reptile." Close second (and pictured to the left): the lights going absolutely apeshit during the end of "Mr. Self Destruct," pulsing so rapidly that Robin looked like a vision out of a drug trip.

And then there was Jane's Addiction, rocking their original line up and looking to bring a large group of people (most of whom appeared out of nowhere when the NIN fans disappeared during the break) on a trip back through their old school material. Just looking at the four of them, you can almost see why they broke up: if Farrell and Navarro are rock via Van Halen, Avery - and to a lesser extent, Perkins - are rock via Black Flag and seeing the two styles together on stage seems to define incongruity. And yet when they play, the differences disappear in the moment it takes for the first notes to peal through the amplifiers. Avery and Perkins provide the foundation, Navarro builds the sweeping structures and adds the lofty touches, and Farrell...well, as Seth put it at one point in the show: Perry Farrell in any other band is David Lee Roth, owning the stage, drinking from a bottle of wine between songs, slapping fives with the audience in the front row. I wouldn't call myself a big enough fan to go see the band headline a show on their own, but in this context it was a great setup and an excellent way to end the night.

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