It's only 6:30 PM in Honolulu but there's already a line outside the After Dark club. The band is in the dressing room, located in the bar of an adjacent Chinese restaurant called the Bohemian Cafe. It has a grass hut motif: split bamboo covers the walls, carved coconuts hang, lit up like jack-o lanterns. The Time Machine flickers on the TV over the bar.
Reznor is preoccupied. The monitors are not loud enough and he's sure he's going to blow out his voice. Mark O'Shea, the good natured road manager, unlocks the wardrobe case. Robin Finck who is worried his guitar strap will his sunburned shoulder raw, goes over and sniffs what he hopes to wear tonight. Lots of sparky Lycra sticks out of the big black chest; all the band's outfits could easily fit into a shoe box. Bassist Danny Lohner can't find his gold leggings. Reznor shuffles through one drawer, then another, finally sighing with relief as he pulls out a pair of bright silver shorts.
Just before the band comes an, I roam the crowd, most of wham are dressed like vampires an a cruise. Hawaii is the Disneyland of paradises, but it‘s also suburbia, long and low with subdivisions and strip malls. And it just might be the most isolated community an earth. No doubt the locals get mightily sick of the old smiley face “A-lo-ha“ routine. Everyone‘s elated that the band is playing here. One guy with a mohawk and a NIN T-shirt tries to convince me he‘s their hugest fan. ‘I can‘t believe this band came here,“ he says over and over. A Japanese girl, whose mother works as a waitress at one of the big hotels, is not surprised. ‘The spirits are very powerful here,“ she says, and then tells me how one of the highway overpasses is haunted, and that tourists who take away lava (a big bad luck no-no) usually end up mailing it back.
The tape rolls, the smoke machines hiss, and the strobe light beats like the heart of a fat man about to suffer an attack. The band takes the stage. They‘ve pounded corn starch into their subtly metallic clothes and look like nothing except futuristic gypsies. Up in the VIP section (which consists of a wooden platform suspended by chains from ceiling rafters) stands David Gahan, the lead singer of Depeche Mode, and a rather confused-looking labelmate of Reznor‘s, Dr. Dre.
As he works the stage, Reznor conveys the perfect combination of sexuality, spirituality, and fascism; he‘s the demon lover, sometimes whispering, sometimes snarling, always seducing. Mid-set, Reznor uses the end of his mike stand like a hammer on James Woolley‘s keyboards, while Robin Finck plucks theatrically at the neck of his guitar. I zone out and in an the computerized sound loops, and get the weird sensation I‘ve taken a ride on a time machine, that it‘s 2094 rather than 1994; that the future is now.
After the show, backstage, the band emerges one by one from the dressing room in street clothes. Dre has split, but Gahan is telling everyone the show was “fucking brilliant.“ He knows Reznor from L.A. “Touring is exactly what that gloomy fucker needs,“ he says.