NIN¦JA (with Mew, too!) – The O2 – 15/07/2009

I’m quite happy this morning. I’m sitting in front of my laptop, eating a peanut butter and jelly (jam sounds wrong) sandwich, wearing a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt. My right ear is still ringing, slightly, and one of my toes hurts, probably from when someone jumped on it last night. I saw Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, and Mew, then. It was fantastic.

Being lucky enough to have secured a nin.com presale ticket, I was allowed into the auditorium easly, so was able to get quite (read: very) near the front. As I entered, Mew were just beginning their set. “Hi, we’re Mew,” the lead singer said sheepishly. I couldn’t help feeling like they were all little starstruck, despite them nearing the end of this gargantuan tour. “We’re from Copenhagen,” the singer revealed, quite innocently. Nonetheless, their set was great; an eclectic mix of rock, and possible hints of trip-hop. It was very much rock, with standard, hard hitting riffs, and solid bass licks, but it was haunting at times, also, in a Sigur Rós kind of way, probably because of the falsetto vocals which were delivered wonderfully.

They scuttled off, after a quick, “Thanks.” Bless them. Jane’s Addiction soon took to the stage. What struck me most about their performance, was the enormity of their stage presence. Perry Farrell, while having aged somewhat, sporting a new haircut, was perfectly at home running around the stage, hopping between monitors, and generally having what looked like a good time. Dave Navarro was also on top form. He looked like he was having as good a time as Farrell, while providing an impeccable, shred-tastic performance.

Their set played like any Jane’s Addiction ‘Greatest Hits’ record. Been Caught Stealing, Ocean Size, and Mountain Song were all there, but they were all played with energy, enthusiasm and sheer joy. You could tell they were all having a brilliant time on stage, and as a result, we, the audience, had a brilliant time watching them.

The lights came up once again, and strangely enough, the entire lighting rig dropped a few feet, and the stage was suddenly filled with keyboards. Soon, NIN took to the stage. By this point, the inevitable ‘crush’ one experiences at gigs, as soon as the main act appears, had started. The drums started pounding, Trent Reznor appeared, and the crowd went absolutely wild.

I can’t, for the life of me, remember what song they opened with. I only remember Mr Reznor throwing his guitar over his head, to the back of the stage, when it was over. I’ve never envisioned him as a violent man, but during his set, he continually knocked over keyboards and microphone stands. Not that this matters at all. Their set was wonderful, and these incidents only added to the chaotic dischord that was their set. They went from heavy songs, that got the crowd jumping up and down (also causing many squashed toes, I’d imagine), to much, much quieter songs, that had the crowd swaying, and waving their hands in the air. I didn’t know where they were going to go next, which was brilliant.

Trent had said prior to the tour that NIN’s performance would be something more organic, and less scripted than past tours, and he was right. In addition to the mind-bending chaos I’ve described above, the band had no hesitation about adding long, sweeping, maybe even improved break-downs to their songs. The Downward Spiral was a particular highlight, which spread a calm, blissful aura over the crowd, before starting the chaos again. As a band, and Reznor, as a producer and songwriter, is certainly a wizard of some kind. Their musical range is astounding, and they showcased this brilliantly with their set.

Reznor also had a couple of surprises in store. The first, was a David Bowie cover of ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’, which is no big surprise, as Reznor has actually remixed the song numerous times, citing that he listened to Bowie’s ‘Low’ album daily when recording ‘The Downward Spiral’. What really surprised me, though, was when he introduced Gary Numan (of ‘Cars‘ fame) and Reznor took a back seat, as the band rocked out to ‘Cars’ and other Numan favourites.

Their set ended with a small encore of ‘Hurt’, which was performed with the help of Robin Finck on acoustic guitar. It was a sombre and heartfelt performance. Indeed, Reznor has admitted he wrote his best material at a very low point at his life, and he was clearly affected when singing it.

The set, overall, was nothing short of eclectic. The band themselves, this time round, consisting of mainstay Robin Finck on guitar and keyboard, Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass and keyboard, and Ilan Rubin, formerly of Lostprophets fame, on drums (and possibly also keyboard). They’re certainly a multi-talented bunch, and this came across in their performance, being able to cope with multiple instruments and musical styles. It was a breath of fresh air from ordinary gigs, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to experience anything like it again.

Reznor has expressed already that he thought the current tour wasn’t a fitting way to say goodbye to NIN, so for now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another European farewell tour, and I urge any of you with any sort of interest in rock music at all to go and see it.

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