Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Go Trent Go!

Nine Inch Nails Live

So, the concert. Again, I don't have any photos, this time because they didn't want us taking cameras in there. In retrospect I probably could have snuck in with one quite easily, but never mind. Instead I shall endeavour to describe the gig in such luscious detail so as to paint an image in your minds eye to far surpass any mere photography.

Picture, if you will, a mighty throng of drunken Australians, all clad in black, and all pushing and shoving in an attempt to reach the front of a raised platform. Upon this platform a small pack of roadies work industriously, hurrying back and forth with effects pedals and bottles of water. A hot asian girl in a short skirt and with a number of facial piercings crosses your path. Being somewhat drunk yourself, you give her the glad eye but it is met with a steely 'fuck off' glare. But that's goth chicks for you.

Speaking of which, I was rather pleased to note how much more girls dress when they go out over there. I've noticed that wherever I travel people in general put more and more effort into their appearance in proportion to the size of the city, and I was quite delighted to see the display at the concert. I could try and paint you an evocative picture in words of what I was looking at, but I'd probably have to go and have a cold shower afterwards and never get round to writing about the actual performance. It will suffice to say that it was corsets, little black hotpants and thigh high boots for as far as the eye could see. (And people wonder why I want to leave Christchurch.)

My favorite outfits though were the half dozen or so people wearing shirts saying “Go Trent Go!” accompanied by a childish drawing of a black clad stick figure. Gave me a good giggle it did.

The opening band were pretty terrible. I thought their songs sounded interesting, but they made a bit of a mess of their first few songs. I know it must be very hard engaging the audience when you're opening for a big popular band like NIN, but having to stop ten seconds into your first song to get in tune with one another is more than a little unprofessional. The guy behind me helpfully yelled out, “Go back to the garage!”. I went back to the bar and waited for them to finish.

So after the obligatory half hour wait, the lights went out and we heard the menacing chords of Pinion being played. Naturally, every one went nuts, and started pushing like mad towards the front. Expecting a heavy, punishing song to open, I was surprised when Trent walked onstage alone (looking quite old with his short, sensible rugby players haircut) and sat down at the piano to play The Frail, while bathed in soft blue lights. He played it pretty much the same as on And All That Could Have Been, so it was no surprise when the rest of the band joined him onstage to go straight into...

The Wretched: I though it was a bit of a slow song to start with, but the audience didn't mind, with the moshpit pumping and everyone singing along, “It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to!”.

Wish: Always a solid crowd pleaser, and guaranteed to send everyone nuts.

Sin: There was no theremin solo on the intro like there is on the live album, which disappointed me a little. Other than that, it sounded pretty much exactly the same. It's all good, but I wonder if NIN aren't maybe a little too tight as a live band for their own good.

The Line Begins To Blur: I was surprised to hear this one, since it didn't strike me as a song that would go over well live, but I was very pleased, because it's one of my favorites off the new album. It did work well live too, although a lot of people didn't seem to know it, and the more aggressive punters didn't seem to appreciate the trippy, quirky chorus.

March Of The Pigs: Another heavy stomper, and another guaranteed crowd pleaser. It went down well, with Trent drawing out the peaceful piano breaks, and the extended outro sending the moshpit into a frenzy as one should hope.

Something I Can Never Have: Straight from one of their heaviest songs into a very very mellow song. Again I was surprised at how well this one worked live, for such a gentle song. Trent seemed to put a lot of passion into it.

The Hand That Feeds: As the swampy beat introduced the song, there was a gradually building cheer as people clicked to the songs identity. It got the whole moshpit jumping up and down, no surprise for a catchy upbeat single.

With Teeth: Not my favorite song off the new album, but I was looking forward to seeing it live, mainly for the chance to scream out “AWITHA TEETHA!”, which I did with much enthusiasm. One of the highlights of the night for me was when Trent pulled out a tambourine to close out the first section of the song, somehow I don't think you'd have ever seen him do that on the Downward Spiral or Fragility tours. He threw it into the audience when he was done with it too, it would have been awesome if I had caught it. The gentle middle section with the piano was really good too, with Trent singing “I cannot go through this again.” over and over, and I especially liked the way Aaron played the accompanying solo on the guitar.

Terrible Lie: Another catchy old favorite, but it didn't seem to engage the crowd very much, at least where I was standing. I decided to move closer to the middle, where the 'real fans' would hopefully be.

Closer: My decision to move was given greater impetus when this song started and the couple in front of me started making out. People making out in the moshpit are one of my pet peeves. Most annoying guys in the moshpit are easily dealt with by a timely push, elbow or shoulder barge. You can't do that when there's a girl in the way though, it wouldn't be gentlemanly. As for the song... I don't remember it that well, I was trying to get away from that couple, who seemed to be following me. I do remember how they mixed a riff from Down In It into the outro, which was pretty cool. I still think they should add Down In It to their setlist.

Home: Another good song off the new album that no-one knew. By this time I was starting to get a little annoyed with the lame audience.

The Big Come Down: One of my favorite songs off The Fragile. Of course, no one knew this one either, but it was great to hear it nonetheless. I really liked Trent's improvised non-vocals at the end. He ordinarily goes a little overboard on the 'Woah's and 'Hey's, so it was good to hear him doing some quirky and unusual improvisations.

Burn: An old b-side which almost no one seemed to know, but a track I was really looking forward to hearing. Trent seemed to be expecting the crowd to complete the 'call and answer' part of the chorus, but there didn't seem to be many others who caught on. Come on, all you have to do is yell "Burn" periodically, it's not that hard, and it's a damn cool song. I did my best on my own.

Reptile: This one didn't really work for me, but it seemed to be popular with the audience, I guess because it's off The Downward Spiral. I liked the dying-computer style light show in the background though, that was cool.

You Know What You Are: One of the rockingist tracks off the new album, it's really almost mandatory for them to play this one at every show. For a song that most of the audience wouldn't have known, it seemed to go down fairly well.

Suck: Another cool song that seemed to meet an unappreciative audience.

Gave Up: Like Wish, this is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and they performed it pretty well. By the time it was finished I was feeling pretty wasted so it was just as well the next song was...

Hurt: Everyone knows this song. It must be weird for Trent, having this emotional, personal song be such a sing-a-long crowd pleaser. The guy next to me yelled out “We love you Trent!”, I wanted to do the same, but I bet he doesn't like people saying things like that during this song.

Dead Souls: A very cool random b-side (a cover of a Joy Division song from The Crow soundtrack) that I didn't expect to hear. By this time I'd made my way to the centre of the moshpit so I was among more appreciative people for this one.

Starfuckers, Inc.: When that deep drum and brass groove kicked in I was treated to the amusing but cool spectacle of a sweaty moshpit full of angry goths hitting the floor and shaking their booties. There was quite a funny moment in the quiet breakdown, when everyone started clapping along. Trent starts singing, then stops and says “If you have to fucking clap, at least can you clap in time? You've put me off and now I've lost my place in the song.” After abusing us a little more they skipped the whole breakdown and went straight into the outro. He's right though, most of the time when people clap (or mosh) in time to the music at concerts they're completely out of time. Call me anal but it annoys me.

Head Like A Hole: The last song of the night, and it went off like you wouldn't believe. I liked how Trent sang the vocal samples from the album (Hoo. Hoo, hoo) at the start.

Random notes:
  • Aaron North (the crazy guitar player) was pretty passive for most of the show, but he did leap around a lot while he was soloing, which I found quite impressive.
  • No Getting Smaller, Beside You In Time, Sunspots or The Day the World Went Away. Which are the songs I really wanted to hear. They played Beside You In Time the next night. Damn it, I should have gone!
  • Trent says they hope to be back early next year (April/May).
It was a good show, but it was let down a bit by a somewhat ambivalent audience. I got the impression that NIN are a big name with a good reputation so they attract a lot of people (especially teenagers) who don't actually know the songs. That's all well and good, but I'd prefer it if they left the front of the moshpit to people who are actually going to go hard for the whole concert.

Another thing is that even though Trent is a great song writer, he writes for the album and worries about arranging it live later, and then makes the mistake of sticking too closely to how the album sounds. What ends up happening is that the live show doesn't quite live up to the very high standard of the album.

Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy myself or that it wasn't worth the trip, but if they come back next year I probably won't be going further afield than Auckland to see them.

My review of With Teeth

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