Nine Inch Nails @ the O2 Arena - 15th July 2009


Jul 21 2009, 0h30

This tour has been billed as their last ever tour, so there really was no excuse for me to miss these godfathers of industrial music, particularly as I'd never actually seen them live before. Also, I'd never seen either of the support bands live before either & after tonight, I still hadn't! What can I say? I got there too late - in fact I only got in there about 10 minutes before NIN took to the stage! Well, I did have to buy a wee drink & a souvenir T-shirt first of course! So, humble apologies to anyone who was waiting to read what I thought of the Mew & Jane's Addiction live experience, but all is not lost - Mew are touring in the autumn, so hopefully I can get round to seeing them then :) Oh & for anyone who's never been to the O2 Arena before - a few words of warning - the actual arena is just one tiny part of the enormous O2 complex & depending on where you have to get to in the arena, its a long, long walk! Also, if you are in the seated part of the arena, I must warn you about the tininess of the seats & the fact that there is little or nothing to stop you from toppling several rows down if you should lose your footing! Also, sufferers of vertigo had better hope they aren't in the upper seated area, like I was - you really are a hell of a long way up & its a long way to fall! Anyway, long enough introduction, let's get on with the reason you're sat here reading this!

At just after 9pm, NIN took to the stage to deafening cheers & with the arena lights still on, they eased us in gently with the short & relatively mellow Now I'm Nothing, then suddenly the lights went out & we were plunged headlong into darkness as the brutal opening chords of Terrible Lie reverberated around us & we entered the dark, bleak world of Trent Reznor. I had a feeling that there would be a few tracks from The Downward Spiral & I wasn't wrong as we were next treated to four songs in a row all from that awesome album. Highlight of these was a blistering March Of The Pigs that was like being caught inside a tornado, interspersed with those deceptively gentle interludes complete with tinkling piano & Trent cooing "& doesn't it make you feel better?" before the next assault of chainsaw guitars & roaring vocals. On the album, the track ends with more gentle piano & that's how it was tonight until everything stopped, making you think it was the end of the song, but then it came back with one more apocalyptic blast that genuinely made me jump! What a tour de force - awesome!

Later on, a mellower interlude followed & the hyperactive & epileptic fit-inducing light show faded to a soothing blue light as Trent lulled us for a few brief minutes with the beautiful piano-based La Mer, that really was gorgeous & a chance to catch our breath. Another relatively obscure track from The Fragile album came soon after & the sludgy, industrial clattering funk of The Big Comedown really sounded 100 times more menacing than it does on record. In fact, every track tonight was multipllied in intensity from the studio versions, by a factor too high to measure & it was truly exhilirating. Next up was the title track from The Downward Spiral & anyone who knows this track, knows that it is deceptively gentle but menacing for most of the track & tonight was no exception as it gently unfurled before us & there was a genuine & palpable sense of foreboding in the arena as we knew what was coming & when it came, it was enough to make your eardrums beg for mercy - a truly terrifying wall of noise that sounded like the end of the world, with continuous, distorted screaming & Trent buried deep down, muttering about how easy it is to kill yourself - its pretty much as uncompromising & utterly unrelenting as music gets.

There was no let up as Wish burst into the arena like a Tasmanian devil on speed & the sound of countless thousands of people simaultaneously bellowing out the words "fist fuck" was truly unsettling, to say the least! After Down In It, Trent spoke to us for a long time. "Way, way back, this was our first ever single...I remember coming to London with my demo tape & wondering if anyone would want to listen to this, but 20 years on we're still here & I'm still alive, which is something!" Cue huge cheers! He then went on to speak about his musical influences & explained to us about an artist who was probably his biggest influence & then, to everyone's surprise, introduced Gary Numan onto the stage! He then sang a couple of songs - Metal & then a truly mind-blowing Cars. I've never been a big fan of Numan, but hearing Cars live was a curious, totally unexpected & wonderful treat :) After that, Trent came back & set the arena jumping & dancing with the brilliant industrial pop song (yes, there is such a thing!) that is The Hand That Feeds & the frenetic light show that was like a digital display gone completely loco, went into complete overdrive. A bleakly soaring Head Like a Hole followed, then all was silence...

What followed (& was the final song of the gig) is surely NIN's most famous & best-loved song. Mere words really can't do justice to this song, but I'll try my best to describe how it felt to hear this song live. Of course, the song I'm talking about is Hurt - NIN's masterpiece, an industrial classic, in fact, its a classic that transcends its genre. It's stripped back, bleak with a curiously soaring chorus & IMHO, there really can't be many more atmospheric songs than this & of course, it was harrowingly covered by Johnny Cash, shortly before he died & the promo video is truly uncomfortable to watch. So, to the performance then. The hyperactive lightshow faded away, leaving Trent bathed in a pool of gentle light & the opening bars wafted around to enormous cheers & then what followed was one of the most beautiful gig moments I can remember experiencing. EVERYONE in the arena sang along to EVERY word, gently & respectfully, never drowning out Trent, but rather like a 15,000-person ghostly backing choir. Apart from Trent in the pool of light, the only other thing you could see were hundreds of mobile phones waving in the air - the modern equivalent of waving a lighter, I guess. Then as the song went on & the gently thudding pulses came in & built towards the chorus, lights gently flashed in time at the back of the stage & everyone clapped along gently, again, never drowning out the man in the light-pool. Everything happened in slow motion. We built towards the finale "If I could start again a million miles away. I would keep myself. I would find a way" & there was a final searing blast of noise & it echoed away & the song burned itself out & was greeted by people all around the arena standing & applauding & cheering. I clapped until my hands were sore, for that was seriously one of those perfect & utterly unbelieveable gig moments that will live on in my memory forever.

Well, what a show! What more can I say? Well, I wasn't sure what to expect but Trent Reznor came across as a guy who was genuinely humbled by the rapturous reception & genuinely appreciative for supporting him & his band for all these years. Unless I'm missing something, I think they played tracks from all their albums tonight in a career spanning 20 years. Of course, when you have such a massive back catalogue of songs as NIN have, there are always gonna be songs that you wanted to hear but didn't - Something I Can Never Have, That's What I Get, Closer, I Do Not Want This, Mr Self Destruct, Piggy, The Great Below, Even Deeper, All The Love In The World, Only... all faves of mine that weren't played, but to complain about not getting to hear all your personal faves is crazy! How can you possibly complain after a breathless, brutal, 2 hour long, 23 song show that assaulted the senses from all sides? Pure & simple, this was the most sonically brutal gig I've ever been to & it was breathtaking, it was a massive rush, it was, in short, a stunning show. I know that after this tour, Trent wants NIN to disappear for a while & he's said that this is their last ever tour. If that is the truth then all I can say is that I'm so glad I grabbed this final chance to see them. If you've never seen them before, I hope for your sake that Trent takes some time out & considers returning to performing live. Only time will tell...

Oh ~& before I forget, here's the mammoth setlist complete with links for your listening pleasure!

Now I'm Nothing
Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
The Becoming
I'm Afraid of Americans
Gave Up
La Mer
The Fragile
The Big Come Down
The Downward Spiral
Down In It
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole

"Everyone can sleep safely & everything is alright..."


  • Schmillbick

    Hehe happy you loved it ! And you had a terrific setlist... I would love to see "Now I'm Nothing" ! :)

    Jul 22 2009, 9h32
  • Al_73

    Hey, cheers for the comment, mister :) Yeah, was a great setlist indeed, but a little gutted I didn't get at least one or two of the songs that I listed that they didn't play :P But yeah, awesome gig & Now I'm Nothing was a great set-opener - maybe you'll get it at your next NIN gig next week? :D

    Jul 23 2009, 0h29
  • thehoneyinside

    magnificent!! :)

    Jul 24 2009, 9h23
  • Al_73

    Yep, that pretty much sums up the gig too :D Cheers for reading, Mon, thanks for the comment & glad you liked it - you soooo should've been there, it was awesome :)

    Jul 25 2009, 0h41
  • hanny1987

    A few things: Firstly I did NOT know it was their LAST european tour!! crappy crap crap that makes me sad. damn you Trent!! Secondly, Mew and Jane's Addiction!! And you missed them!!! tsk tsk Alex :P still blinder of a review as always :) I was definitely sitting there in your pocket! Sad they did not play Only I can't describe how much I love that one.

    Jul 25 2009, 13h42
  • Al_73

    Awww :( Maybe Trent will take some time out & reconsider his rash decision :) Haha, yeah, as long as I live, I will never understand my inability to get to gigs in time to see the support bands, especially when they are as awesome as that! *hangs head in shame* Aw & thankily for your nice words as always - cheers for reading & glad you liked it :D Oh & Only is indeed an awesome one - seriously gutted we didn't get that :(

    Jul 26 2009, 2h37
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