Friday, December 05, 2008
Nine Inch Nails has been on my gotta-see-someday list for a long time, and they're finally off the list after seeing them last night in Kelowna. I had mixed expectations for the show -- low because much of their music is electronic and sampled, and difficult to perform in an authentic way, but also high expectations because of the reputation they have for a great live show and because of how badly I wanted to see them.
Despite thinking that I had lost Cousin Richard in the Greyhound system at one point, and giving up to go to the pub by myself, it turned out to be a really fun night. Andrew and I eventually collected him outside the arena and met Robin inside, who said that the opening band had been terrible. The lights went down almost immediately after we sat down, and the seats were great; bottom row, just off the corner of the stage (thanks again, Vicki).
I hooted and hollered and laughed out loud in the first few songs, because it was just total audiovisual onslaught -- so intense and amazing and frantic. For those first ones, it was a straight-up heavy rock assault with multiple guitars and pounding drums; Reznor muscling around the stage like a caged tiger and singing/shouting in fine form. Lights started out as panicked white strobes and walls of black and white to match the deafening wall of noise. The sound quality was incredible -- loud enough to shake our guts, but never distorted or mixed poorly.
According to this setlist, they played 28 songs. Highlights and notes from my perspective...
Incredible: Discipline, Terrible Lie, Only, Head Like A Hole, Hurt, In This Twilight
Discipline was my favourite tune off the newest album, and they performed it flawlessly. The three oldest songs in this group were unbelievable not only for nostalgia, but just for the sheer power of the performances, especially Head Like a Hole -- the only thing that might have improved it would have been another 50,000 fans chanting along. I had barely dared to hope that they'd play Twilight, my favourite mellow NIN song ever, so it blew my mind as the concert closer.
Great: Head Down, Me I’m Not, The Hand That Feeds, Echoplex, The Beginning of the End, The Good Soldier
Head Down and Echoplex were two other favourites of mine off the new album, and I liked the live versions even better. I wasn't as impressed with the performance of Hand That Feeds, but love the song so much I didn't really care...just happy they played it. This trio from Year Zero were excellent...solid, tight and much heavier than on the recordings.
Not So Good: March of the Pigs, Wish, Survivalism, Piggy, and Closer
I knew in advance that they'd play many of the popular, harsher anthems that most NIN fans seem to adore -- so I was prepared. The performances were excellent...I just don't like the songs (blasphemy to true fans, I know). They played a surprising amount from the mellow, mostly-instrumental Ghosts project. Although it provided a nice break from the full-frontal attack of the heavier stuff, they didn't play any of the Ghosts tracks from 1-10, which contain my favourites. In general, the all-electronic songs where they put away the guitars and actual drums were pretty bad, with the "band" pretending to twiddle knobs on machines while singing over recorded music (or so it appeared to me). Bit weak.
Songs I Wished They Had Played But Didn't: Into the Void, The Wretched, We're in This Together, Every Day is Exactly the Same, The Warning, My Violent Heart, Slipping Away, Where is Everybody?, Down in It, Beside You in Time
This is always a tough list, and hardly fair with bands that have been around a long time. Out of a couple of hundred songs, how could they pick everyone's favourites without putting on an all-day show? That said, I would have LOVED to hear any of these, as well as a dozen others that I listen to all the time. But it didn't make me bitter. With so many great songs, you can't complain about the ones they missed.