In what was a far yet deafening cry from the normal wine-and-cheese Hollywood Bowl outing, two muscular rock outfits — Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age — proceeded to have their way with the venerable, bucolic venue to the shock and awe of those in attendance (despite it being damn near impossible to mosh in a terrace box seat).
Nine Inch Nails’ “With Teeth” (Nothing/Interscope), the latest and fourth in Trent Reznor’s cycle of a proper album every half-decade or so, finds the artist still raging after all these years on themes of alienation, dysfunction, identity and self-worth (or the lack thereof).
Onstage is where he gets to act out, but even a devoted aud need witness only so much industrial-strength strobe rock over those 15-plus years, with its attendant water bottle-throwing and mic-stand and equipment-smashing tantrums. (God bless the diligent roadies, from NIN’s appearance on the first Lollapalooza in 1991 through to today.)
The anger and angst still seem genuine, so much so that the occasional after-song “thank you” seems out of character and almost insincere. And one can only marvel at Reznor’s willfulness to work the word “fuck” or its derivations into the chorus of most of his singles (“Closer,” “Only,” et al), all the while making them catchy, melodic and danceable enough to still garner considerable, albeit edited, airplay.
But most compelling was the mid-set pairing of “Teeth” ballads (or the NIN approximation) “Right Where It Belongs” and “Beside You in Time” to a striking visual presentation of film clips of nature, and what could loosely be called humanity, projected onto a nearly transparent curtain in front of the almost invisible band. The perfs managed to serve as soundtracks to a psychodrama of universal proportions and yet provide some contrast and relief to the onslaught of light and sound.
QOTSA also surveyed its four albums’ worth of output (released in less than half the lifetime of NIN), but did so on the strength of pure musicianship over programmed beats and aggro antics, packing its hourlong slot with a few deep cuts and the most radio-friendly from their latest, “Lullabies to Paralyze (Interscope),” namely “Little Sister” and “In My Head.”
Josh Homme is a confident, commanding presence simply standing still behind the microphone, blazing guitar in hand, leading his razor-sharp bunch (no matter who’s backing him up) through great riff rockers like “No One Knows” and opener “Go With the Flow,” both from their breakthrough 2002 disc “Songs for the Deaf.”
Also working in his favor is a twisted sense of humor, as Homme lightened the heavy rock mood with between-song (and even mid-song) shtick, while the mere presence of QOTSA keyboardist/singer Natasha Shneider made a small dent toward softening the testosterone-laden affair.
NIN and QOTSA both play the Voodoo Music Experience, moved to Memphis from New Orleans (Reznor was a former New Orleans resident who had maintained a recording studio in the city), on Halloween weekend.