It's seemed fitting: the first time I saw Nine Inch Nails was at Lollapalooza back in 1991, when Trent Reznor and co. were touring off of Pretty Hate Machine, a debut that hit all of us like the proverbial ton of bricks. Eighteen years later, at arguably the top of his game, he's giving up NIN as a live entity with a series of 11 gigs - his "Wave Goodbye" tour. I was lucky enough to snag an extra ticket from Indie Maven Sean, so last night we hiked it over to Terminal 5 in NYC to check it out.
Opening was a band called The Horrors, pretty reminiscent of 80s goth like Bauhaus and Joy Division, but with a loud modern indie flair. According to Sean they've made some significant departures in their sound compared to their debut, which had more of a punk ethic. This was my first chance to hear them, and I liked it - little did we know how appropriate the vibe would be later.
Did I mention I actually brought a camera this time? No crappy phone pics for once!
The Man Himself. After a lengthy setup period where nothing seemed to happen except an overabundance of smoke, the band blasted out of the gate with "Home", a b-side from With Teeth.
Although Sean preferred the setlist from the Webster Hall show a couple of days ago, where they played The Downward Spiral in its entirety, the show at Terminal 5 (besides being a crappy venue filled with jocular dirtbags only out to get drunk and punch somebody, but that's MHO) was exactly what I wanted - an insane mix of old and new, covers, hits, and unexpected gems from back in the catalog.
A couple great moments: breaking out "I'm Afraid of Americans", "March of the Pigs", pretty much all the old stuff...it's amazing how great the older tracks from Pretty Hate Machine through The Downward Spiral translate when played in the warmer, organic style Reznor's been playing with ever since With Teeth. LOTS of music off The Fragile, an album I didn't really appreciate before, but am dying to go back to in light of the performances.
The battery in my camera starting crapping out at a certain point, so no pictures unfortunately of Peter Murphy from Bauhaus (see - the reference would pay off eventually!) came out and completely killed on "Reptile" as well as the Bauhaus' "Kick in the Eye." he also came out during the encore to do Joy Division's Dead Souls, which NIN covered for the soundtrack to THE CROW.
I don't know if the pictures really convey it, but Reznor has honed himself into a ROCK GOD: he looks about the size of Henry Rollins, and his stage presence was ridiculously cool - jumping, sweating, basically whipping the crowd into a frenzy from the second he stepped out onto the stage. If last night's show was any indication of how he usually is, he's leaving at the height of his powers. As the band launched into "Head Like a Hole" at the end of the normal set, the entire crows chanted every word, raising their hands in tribute, mirroring Reznor as he bellowed out the "bow down before the one you serve."
It was hard to tell who was doing the bowing, but I suspect it was both.