Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Mew
Edmund Townend 14/07/2009
Nine Inch Nails have had a very long two years. Since April 2007, when Year Zero was released, they (or rather he, as there is no need to be reminded that NIN is essentially Trent Reznor) have been working non-stop either touring or reshaping the music industry after the split between Interscope and the band. Since then they've toured relentlessly throughout North and South America, Australia and finally Europe. This, according to Reznor, is the last time they'll tour. Fortunately, it's not the end of Nine Inch Nails, but it's still a harsh blow to lose such a band from the live scene.
Reznor's first guest is Denmark's Mew. Hailing from Copenhagen, their music varies from sharp indie rock to full blown progressive. With a short seven song set and an unengaged crowd, they made a good impression nonetheless. Lead singer Jonas Bjerre's distinctive Scandinavian voice rose high among the arena's towering rafters. Starting with the apocalyptic drum beat of New Terrain they played a range from their last three albums dating back to 2003 to their latest release No More Stories…, including the stand-out tracks The Zookeeper's Boy with an incredible refrain throughout and the funk-ridden, off beat Special. However, jagged songs like Introducing Palace Players grated somewhat with its attempt to create a math-rock clatter but sounding more like a mess. Mew's impression on the rock-hard audience, here to see their rock idols, was minor - but to a few misty-eyed daydreaming fans and newcomers their music shone through.
Jane's Addiction opened their set with a scene from A River Wild where a character wishes he'd seen the band before they broke up, signifying the band's true return to their full line-up including bassist Eric Aver whose colourful bass riff for the epic 10 minute saga Three Days started their set. The screen's image changes to that of scantily clad women, and pulls up to reveal a smoke laden stage and the band themselves. Eyes are immediately drawn to the perfectly chiselled Dave Navarro and the flamboyant demeanour of Perry Farrell, complete with cockney cap (he seemed a bit confused about which city he was in at first). Farrell's vocals are mainly on show in this first song, light and feathery over the psychedelic riff. Despite a weathered appearance (the Lollapalooza curator was 50 this year) his voice retains its youth and vigour and his maturity levels are still about the same as the teenager he was when he first started.
The next song is Whores - recently re-recorded with Trent Reznor and released for free as part of an EP to promote the tour. The whole band transforms their sound from a psychedelic journey to a dirty rock anthem. The band jumps to the speedy Ain't No Right with another charging bass riff. Farrell's voice soars, croons and chatters away over the hammering drums and jittery guitar lines. Another epic song follows with Then She Did about Farrell's mother with a return to a Californian surf-rock feel followed by more psychedelica in Up The Beach. This music feels strangely out of place set against the background of the progressive Mew and the aggressive tones of Nine Inch Nails, but as further songs are played it's proved that Jane's Addiction know how to throw their weight around. Most impressive are Farrell's onstage antics, including leaps and spins off monitors and the drum kit which drew amazed outbursts from the crowd.
More bass opens up for Mountain Song, and you start to see the wave-like pattern of soft to hard rock. Farrell continually cracks jokes - mocking photographers who shot only two songs due to the length of Three Days and introducing Been Caught Stealing with a plea for forgiveness in a lapse of manners - but he voiced his discontent in the uninterested audience saying: 'We know you're just here for Nine Inch Nails…'. They continued with another epic, Ocean Size, Ted, Just Admit It…m and an encore of the raucous, babbling Stop!. (Jane's Addiction played much better in London after Farrell was reassured that he had friends there when Navarro made the crowd cheer him on stage in a fantastical ego trip).
Finally, the smoke built and the lights cut out to welcome Nine Inch Nails on stage to the slowly building guitar of Somewhat Damaged an aggressive and punctuated start with one of the bands most aggressive, nihilistic and hate-filled songs. Reznor's line up consisted of old hand Robin Finck (who played a part in Guns n Roses whilst Aaron North replaced him after Reznor became sober), Beck bassist Justin Meldal-Johnson and - just turned 21 - Lostprophets' drummer Ilan Rubin. All three supports played furiously, albeit reservedly in contrast with the passionate performances given by NIN's With Teeth band. Terrible Lie and Heresy followed - two scathing attacks on religion and God - with much of the black-clad crowd joining in on every word.
A double hit of pigs followed from The Downward Spiral - March of the Pigs and Piggy (named after the house Reznor recorded the album in - Sharon Tate's - where she was killed by Charles Manson's cult). During Piggy, Reznor jumps towards the crowd and leaves the microphone in the audience for them to finish with the line 'nothing can stop me now' - ironic for the 44-year-old who is on his last tour. The band then launch into the mainly synthesised Metal Gary Numan cover. (Numan joined the band in London the next night to play Metal and Cars to an overwhelming audience response). It was apparent the effort that had gone in to re-working the songs for a final time, with an electric version of The Becoming complete with acoustic guitar set against an agonisingly aggressive stanza 'Won't give up!/Wants me dead!/God damn this noise inside my head!'
They then played another cover: I'm Afraid of Americans, originally by David Bowie (in which Reznor appeared in the music video and also remixed). Despite Reznor's anti-American sentiment both lyrically and politically (he was banned from MTV's music awards for trying to display a photo of Bush behind his anti-American anthem The Hand That Feeds) he still lives in America and finds the experience of growing abroad taxing and frustrating - especially after much hassle in 2007's European festival run (he mentions that he was looking forward to the London date 'the whole tour' suggesting it was the only date he really wanted to play). Another aggressive hit followed with Burn off the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. Casual NIN fans are obviously flummoxed, but dedicated fans are enthralled by the diversity. Certainly, Reznor and the band enjoy the songs as they hammer into the final throes of it before charging into the even more aggressive (if possible) Gave Up.
The mood deepens to quiet and those who came from the mosh pits get disgruntled through the wistful La Mer (recently revealed to be the saviour of Reznor's life when close to suicide) and the powerfully stirring The Fragile. A small instrumental is played which incorporates the rare track Gone, Still played mostly by Rubin on keyboards. The instrumental then builds successfully into the epic crescendo of The Way Out Is Through. It is obvious in choice of set the disconnection to the mainstream Reznor is trying to achieve, but his legacy is too vast to stop him playing such massive venues around the world.
Further aggression is then thrown about in the anthems Wish and Survivalism - the latter a cruel attack on the desensitization of modern warfare and media coverage - pulled straight from the fantastic concept album Year Zero but sadly the only track off it all night. Another cover, this time of Pigface's Suck which appears on the Broken EP is masterfully arranged, and again a song shouts in the face of God - 'I'm Jesus, f**k! I'm ecstasy', spits Reznor in an improvised take on the lyrics. Before the final hits are played, there is a gem in the incredible and overwhelming The Day The World Went Away. A massive throbbing build up transforms into an echoing coda of melodies.
To finish the night Reznor plays his three most known hits (besides Closer of course, as Reznor himself confirmed he wouldn't play it again): The Hand That Feeds - the pulsing, dance-beat sober comeback single, Head Like A Hole - a fitting attack on greed and opulence and the defeatist Hurt ending the show on an unavoidable down note. This is the last time that Reznor will tour, and thus the show is over for the industrial, frenetic beast that is Nine Inch Nails.
NIN photo by Stellar Spontaneous Photography