Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fight! Hyperpower!

Nine Inch Nails
Live in Sydney 9th May

So much for my big plan to see NIN three nights in a row. The second two shows were cancelled for unknown reasons (the semi official rumour is that Trent had a sore throat but I wouldn't put much stock in it, this is the industry standard bullshit excuse and is tour manager code for "We don't know" or "We don't want to tell you"), but unlike many unfortunates I at least had the opportunity to see them once on Wednesday.

The first time I saw Nine Inch Nails was on the Fragility tour in 2000, where Trent had trouble playing the piano and singing in tune on account of being trashed out of his fucking head. It was a very different Trent (with a completely different backing band) who I saw on the With Teeth tour two years ago. Much grumpier, but a better performer. Nevertheless I felt that both those concerts lacked a bit of energy and were not everything I expected from one of my favourite bands. Little time has passed since the last tour so this time they had almost the same line up (Jerome Dillon got booted and replaced by Josh Freese on drums) and a fairly similar setlist.

The opening band, Serena Maneesh, were OK, kind of a mix between Sigur Ros and Sonic Youth. They passed the time well enough but didn't really do a lot for me.

Trent sings 'The Beginning of the End'

The Beginning of the End


Nine Inch Nails opened with the first three tracks off the new album. 'Hyperpower!' was the walk on track, with Trent appearing in time to provide vocals and tambourine for 'The Beginning of the End'. Remember what I said about how funny it was when he pulled out the tambourine for 'With Teeth' on the last tour? He was playing the damn thing for almost the whole concert this time around.
Said tambourine

The band seemed a lot more passionate and aggressive this time, and all three of these tracks were rapturously received by the audience. 'Survivalism' was a highlight for me, especially the noisy extended outro.

March of the Pigs


'March of the Pigs' is a setlist staple of theirs now for obvious reasons. It's virtually guaranteed to go off like a motherfucker every time. 'Closer' was the same version as on the last tour (with a bit of 'The Only Time' added to the end). 'Heresy' was an unexpected but very welcome surprise! I love that track and it was great to finally hear it live. The setlist in general sounded a bit like Trent had raided his earlier albums (mainly The Downward Spiral and Broken) for songs that matched the themes of the new album.

The light show was pretty cool

Gave Up

I was a bit surprised to hear 'Burn' again, as it was a bit of special fanservice when they played it on the last tour, but it's still part of the standard setlist on this tour. Again this is probably because it's lyrics fit in with Year Zero quite nicely. Like 'March of the Pigs' 'Gave Up' would be pretty unlikely to be left out of their set. Not only is it a great rock out track, its fantastic singalong parts are perfectly suited to live performance.

Help Me I Am In Hell

Me, I'm Not

La Mer

Absolutely brilliant. If you were to ask me which three NIN songs I really wanted to hear but was extremely pessimistic about getting then it may well have looked like this. 'Help Me I Am In Hell' and 'La Mer' were little solo instrumental performances that covered up a change in stage setup for 'Me, I'm Not' (keys and laptop for Alessandro and Trent). After it was done Trent retreated to the back of the stage and started plinking around on his keyboard, before coming back out front to snarl at the lighting crew, “I like the dark as much as the next guy, but can I get the lights turned on over here? I can't fucking see shit.” Then, too my delight he began playing the lovely melody of 'La Mer', and I couldn't help but scream “Fuck yeah!!”, to the apparent amusement of the people standing around me. What, I'm not allowed to get excited by a piano and acoustic guitar song?

'Help Me I Am In Hell' was played in almost complete darkness by Aaron, Josh and Jeordie. It was a heavier, eviller version than that on the album, and it turned out pretty awesome. Out of all the tracks on Year Zero 'Me, I'm Not' was the one I thought least likely to be played live as it's so quiet, moody and electronic, but it went down really well with the audience. One of the good things about playing a number of shows in a smaller venue like this is that the band can be sure that the majority of the audience at the first show is a serious fan, so they can do something like play a weird, mellow song from the new album which has only been out a month and get a good reception. 'La Mer' was Trent on keys and Aaron on guitar, and although it was only an abbreviated version (without the noisy parts), I almost creamed my pants in delight.

You can't really tell in this photo, but that's Trent playing 'La Mer'

The Good Soldier

One of my favourite tracks off the new album! That makes four unexpected songs in a row that I was just thrilled to hear. Aaron played the guitar solo at the end with a lot more aggression than on the album but I still really liked it. Third best song of the night, after 'La Mer' and another one that I'm coming to.


No You Don't

After a long mellow out the band started getting heavy again with these two. 'Wish' is another of their standard crazygonuts songs, and 'No You Don't' is a random pick that seems to have been chosen for its conceptual alignment with Year Zero. Other than 'La Mer' it was the only track from The Fragile that was played (and it was one I'd heard them do before in 2000), which was slightly disappointing.

"I am so dirty. On the inside"

Mr. Self Destruct


Dead Souls

'Mr. Self Destruct' and 'Only' were pretty good. The other two I was less fussed about (I'd heard them both live before). Trent had a funny speech before 'Dead Souls': "We tricked you and got back here sooner than you thought we would! We have a new album out which many of you will have have stolen already. This song is not on it... it's not by us, it's by one of my favourite bands.”

"I am so dirty... ohhhhhh!"

After knocking his keyboard over again in another tantrum, Trent got around to

This was the third time I've heard this one live, but even considering that and the various live versions floating around on record this was the best performance of it that I've heard. Trent solo with piano for the first half of the song (and the whole audience singing along) was just brilliant. Highlight of the show.

The Hand That Feeds

Head Like A Hole

And finishing with a couple of catchy, aggressive crowd pleasers. Everyone had great fun screaming along with these two.

Obligatory single decent photo

In general, the things I was disappointed about:
  • No 'In This Twilight' or 'Zero-Sum'... maybe next time.
  • No stage show. I've seen the things they've done in the past on their live DVDs and it's really fucking awesome. I really wish they'd bring the whole show out to the antipodes some time. Maybe in September...
  • Almost nothing off The Fragile.
The things that were good:
  • The audience was great. Everyone was a genuine fan (tickets were sold out in half an hour to this first gig) and I met some really nice people. The moshpit was great (and not really a moshpit). Everyone was really packed in as you expect at shows with this kind of popularity but there was no pushing or shoving, just everyone jumping up and down. It was heaps of fun.
  • Being the first to hear 'Me, I'm Not' and 'The Good Soldier' live.
  • 'Hurt'. Just brilliant.
The thing that really sucked ass:
  • Coming home the next night to find the second (and later the third) shows cancelled with no explanation. What the fuck?!


Joel said...

I'm completely living vicariously through your post and photos.

Thank you!

Jon said...

You're welcome!

You should come over and visit for the concert rescheduled for September. Bex's old ticket is sitting in my desk with no owner...

Joel said...

Ohh, by September that might actually be a possibility if I have a job and stuff.


Jon said...

It would be great to see you! The ticket now has a 'tentatively reserved for Joel' sticker on it...