I’ve been listening exclusively to Nine Inch Nails since seeing them perform at Staples Center Friday night. It’s been a long time since a concert inspired me to do that. I’ve been listening to this band for more than 20 years and, even today, as I listen to Nine Inch Nails, I can hear new perspectives in the music. It’s dynamic and evolving. It’s the varying degrees of tension between the instruments and the space between the noise. If you step out of the literal and just listen to the music, you can hear something new every time.
There are back up singers in this line-up and when they sing, that’s one thing. When they scream, that’s another thing. These women – and everyone on that stage and associated with this production – are essential to the show. Everyone’s role is additive and complementary to the experience.
Rob Sheridan, Nine Inch Nails’ creative director, is brilliant. Trent Reznor has an amazing ability to recognize and embrace exceptionally talented people. The creative collaboration with Sheridan is signature to the Nine Inch Nails brand. You know what this music feels like as a result of the entire production; not just the sound.
And the sound is great, no matter where they play. Staples Center can be tricky with sound because it tends to bounce around the room. A Nine Inch Nails show – loud as it may be – will not send you home with ringing ears. There’s precision in the production.
If I could use one word to describe Nine Inch Nails, it would be “integrity”. Integrity of music, integrity of art, integrity of the relationship with their fans. This band keeps their promise every time. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, I recommend seeing Nine Inch Nails for the inspiration of the vision and the aspiration of being that committed to their art.
So yeah, the show was outstanding. Where the fuck were you??
It was so good the first night, I went back the second night, which was actually the last night of the Queens of The Stone Age (QOTSA) tour. QOTSA played every song from their debut album (yeah – that was a while ago), plus a bunch of other songs meant to remind you they’re one of the best rock bands around.
By the end of the second night, my hearing was compromised to the point that I couldn’t hear the letter “r” for 2 days. The margaritas led me to believe it was a sign, considering Rated R is one of my favorite QOTSA albums. As you will see from the tweets below, completely worth it.
For those with A.D.D., Queens of The Stone Age at The Wiltern (I hope you didn’t miss it):
Venue rules, not QOTSA rules
You can click to make these bigger or put on your reading glasses:
If you like music at all, even if you don’t like their music, Massive Attack is a show to see. If you’re depressed about the state of world affairs, well. . . take something to make you feel better and see this show anyway.
During the first of three sold-out shows at The Wiltern, Massive Attack treated the crowd to the perfect blend of music, dance, and overtly disturbing messages. They kicked off the show with an energy level many artists reserve for the encore and maintained it throughout.
Another thing that was consistent throughout the show was the display of facts and figures on a digital screen, behind the band. The information projected to the crowd was meant to shift perspective, to open the eyes of everybody in attendance to some of the injustice in the world. From war to slavery, genocide to oil, Massive Attack covered it all. The massive onslaught of information and statistics, albeit disturbing and often times shocking, did not detract from the music. In fact, the high production value of the show – the lights, the display, the sound – was a perfect blend and clearly intended to communicate a message.
Despite the heavy tone and nature of the show, Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja (“Massive Attack”) seemed elated, exuberant. . . exceptionally joyous during the after party. It got me wondering – what is the message Massive Attack wants people to come away with?
When I asked what he’d say about the overall message they’re conveying, Marshall responded, “Well, the message. . . I’m actually reading Howard Zinn’s book (A People’s History of The United States) right now, so you better talk to me in a week’s time.”
I phrased the question a bit differently for Del Naja: “So is the overarching message that we’re fucked??” I asked him.
“Yeah, exactly. I was trying to make it a bit more positive than that, but that’s pretty much it. That’s why we’ve got to keep on dancing!” del Naja replied, with a broad smile on his face, mid-dance.
There’s not much to say. Last night marked the final performance for Nine Inch Nails for the foreseeable future and I was standing 5 feet from the stage. It doesn’t get much better than that. In fact, it might not get any better than that. Unless, of course, NIN says “just kidding” and start touring again next year.
The thing is – it didn’t seem to matter where you were standing for this show – everybody who was there was just happy to be there. I saw a post from a woman who was in the furthest seat back in the balcony and she sounds as moved and excited as me.
It hasn’t really hit me yet that this is the last time we’ll be seeing this band perform live, especially since I got used to seeing them almost every-other day during these final four shows. I even ran out of black t-shirts to wear. I’ll post some videos, pictures, and the setlist below, but let’s start at the beginning.
Any Nine Inch Nails show is an experience, but the experience of this show began with fans trying to get tickets during the original on-sale and people traveling in from around the world to be at what was actually supposed to be the second-to-last show ever. As evidenced on the tour posters and shirts, the schedule changed last-minute when Trent became too sick to perform following the initial show at The Palladium. This meant the Henry Fonda (2nd) and Wiltern (3rd) shows had to be rescheduled. The Echoplex show, which was originally billed as the final show, went on as scheduled last Sunday, making it the 2nd show instead of the last show. Confused? Imagine how the bosses, family members, spouses and friends of all the people who took time off work, traveled across the country (or from other countries), and camped outside days before each show felt! I met people who couldn’t tell their family they were in town from Chicago because they surely wouldn’t understand why they popped over to LA for a day to see Nine Inch Nails, but haven’t visited the family in a year. But in the end it all worked out. Trent was well enough to perform the shows the way Nine Inch Nails is known and will be remembered for, and some fans who couldn’t previously get tickets were able to get into the rescheduled shows (although others who originally planned to be there had to return home to their jobs and families).
Speaking of family – Nine Inch Nails fans are family in a way that I haven’t experienced with any other band. There are definitely communities of fans that become friends through their shared love of a band. And jam band fans in particular run into each other while following their favorite band around the country. But Nine Inch Nails fans might as well be blood relatives. They look out for each other and NIN in a way that only a protective family member would. And the band does the same for their fans. In a fairly successful attempt to eliminate the scalping of tickets for these shows, Nine Inch Nails controlled all ticket sales, limited 2 tickets per person, printed the buyer’s name on the tickets, required ID of the buyer for ticket pick up, both the buyer and the buyer’s guest had to be present to pick up the tickets and then a wristband was placed on both people for entrance into the show. When the band found out that somebody was purchasing large quantities of event shirts and selling them on eBay (causing shirts to sell out at the venue before the fans who were there could purchase one), they limited people to one t-shirt per customer. And although they announced their Summer tour would be their last, Nine Inch Nails realized the impact this would have on their fans and added these final intimate club dates as a proper send-off. And then they played their souls out.
A small section of the line that spanned for blocks
Driving up to The Wiltern was quite a sight. I passed by the venue Wednesday at midnight and there were already a good 15 – 20 people camping outside. Dave Navarro also stopped by, brought water and snacks for the fans, and hung out for a bit. Then, by 2:00pm Thursday, the line wrapped around the block so that you could look through the alley and wave to the people waiting on the next street over.
The funniest thing to see were these huge straw patio umbrellas that several people seemed to have. It was HOT outside and once people discovered that Ralph’s sold patio furniture, they cleaned them out. Straw patio umbrellas were only $8 and they sold out in a flash. This was also one of the few places where the line for the men’s restroom was longer than the women’s. At one point, a guy drove by, blasting Lady GaGa. If you drive by hundreds of Nine Inch Nails fans, with Lady GaGa as your soundtrack, you deserve the ridicule you receive. There was a fan who walked up and down the line, giving everybody candy. “I’ve stood in this line 3 times (for the previous shows). I know how it is,” she said. Somebody asked me, “is there a show happening here?” I answered, “no” – you’ve got to be at least one step ahead of that for me to respond to you seriously. Somebody asked a guy next to me “who’s playing?” and the guy, who had been answering that question since he arrived at 7:30am said, “Michael Jackson.” Now, you might not think that’s funny. But the person’s response was, “oh – cool!” and that’s either funny or scary. Then, there’s the “t-shirt douche” – the guy who bought NIN event shirts en mass and tried to sell them on eBay for more than $200 each. As soon as fans figured out who this guy was they took a picture of him and posted it online (along with some additional descriptive graphics added in Photoshop). They shared it on Twitter and in the NIN forums and told everybody to be on the lookout for the “t-shirt douche.” But what was even better than that is that people passed out fliers with the guy’s picture on it while everybody was waiting in line. So now you have a line of several hundred people, holding these fliers that look like an R-rated version of an “America’s Most Wanted” poster and what happens? The “douche” walks by, head down, as fans call him out and require him to leave. Do not f*ck with Nine Inch Nails fans.
Once inside, there were the celebrity sightings: Tony Hawk, Ron Jeremy (for whom the crowd chanted and cheered), Rick Rubin, Tony Kanal (No Doubt), and Penn Jillette. But mostly there was the anticipation, excitement, and a bit of sadness that loomed in the air as everybody waited for Nine Inch Nails to take the stage for the last time. The show was amazing. All of these shows have been. I’m actually afraid to see live music for a little while because it’s going to take a lot to move me after this.
There are Artists, Musicians, Singers, Composers, Performers, and Songwriters. Some people are only one of those; Trent Reznor is all of them. He writes some of the most beautifully composed music you’ll hear. His music constricts and expands, extremely intense at times and then giving you space to breathe and expand with the notes. He has the ability to take all those sounds he hears in his head, and to articulate and translate them into something I can hear, process, and that moves my soul. His voice is exquisite – speaking and singing – I could listen to him for days. He’s honest and raw and 100% who he is – whether you (or he) like it or not – which makes his performances as real and authentic as they get. He’s given us 20 years of exceptional music and outstanding live performances. Even if you don’t like him, you gotta love him.
Numan and Reznor
The set list was 3-4 pages in length and they played for over 3 hours. Dave Navarro joined for a couple songs, as did The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mike Garson (Bowie), and Gary Numan. When they came out for the second encore Trent asked the crowd, “Are you guys tired?” Of course the crowd screamed “no!” and cheered. “No? Ok, I’m gonna test you.”
Although I don’t typically post set lists, I’m doing it for these shows because they’re the last shows and you can tell that a lot went into constructing a set in-line with such an event. So here it is:
2. Somewhat Damaged
3. The Collector
5. March of the Pigs
6. Something I Can Never Have
7. The Frail
8. The Wretched
10. Head Down
12. Just Like You Imagined (with Mike Garson)
13. La Mer (with Mike Garson)
14. Eraser (with Mike Garson)
15. The Becoming (with Mike Garson)
16. Down In The Park (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
17. Metal (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
18. I Die: You Die (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
20. Letting You
22. Suck (Pigface cover)
23. Down In It
24. The Hand That Feeds
25. Head Like a Hole
26. Me, I’m Not (with Atticus Ross)
27. The Warning
29. Gave Up
30. Mr. Self Destruct
32. Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
33. Dead Souls (Joy Division cover)
34. The Good Soldier
35. The Day The World Went Away
37. In This Twilight
Here are some videos and photos from last night’s show, including Trent’s final speech to the audience. But first, a thank you to Nine Inch Nails for the past 20 years, the music, the shows, the love, the heartbreak, and the friends met along the way. Look forward to hearing what you guys do next.
You know about this band, right? Another Jack White side-project. When I first heard about The Dead Weather I was scared. I’m not afraid of references to death, the dead, nor the weather, but definitely skeptical when even the most talented musicians begin launching multiple side-projects. I love the White Stripes and have fond memories of seeing them play intimate shows at The Troubadour long before they signed to V2 and exploded to the forefront of mass consciousness.
The Dead Weather rocking The Wiltern, LA
Then came The Raconteurs. Another group I enjoyed – both live and recorded. Along the way, of course, I’ve seen The Kills and Queens of The Stone Age several times. So effectively, we’re talking about a super group comprised of musicians from four different bands I really like. You see why I’m scared, right?
What if it sucks?
An unlikely scenario considering the fact that I’ve been enjoying The Dead Weather’s debut album “Horehound” since it was released. Even a less likely scenario when you consider how talented each of these musicians is individually, let alone collectively.
Still, I was a bit hesitant.
Well, my skepticism was short lived because the second I saw the set design and the aged family photograph on the drum, I was instantly reminded of the artistry of these musicians. Yes, this night was going to be about the music first and foremost, but it would also be a show.
And indeed it was. It didn’t hurt that I recently saw the documentary, It Might Get Loud, which gave some great insights into Jack White’s character and his musical influences, detailing the specific Blues song that helped define his sound. Then, to see him drumming in The Dead Weather with such passion and energy, while at the same time reflecting back on the endearing observations Jack shares when discussing Meg White’s style of drumming in the movie. . . But even if I knew nothing about Jack White, I’d be mesmerized by his sheer talent – on the drums, on the guitar, and on vocals. Another thing I love about Jack White is that it’s truly about the music. He doesn’t need to be “the star” of the show and in fact, he seems to recognize that they’re all stars, so he can just sit in back on the drum kit and do his thing.
Alison Mosshart takes the lead
Alison Mosshart is a large presence. Her voice sounded great, she moves around the stage, grabs the attention of the audience, and holds on tight throughout the 75 minute show.
Then you have Dean Fertita (QOTSA) and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs). Both are amazing.
The Dead Weather. Even though it was a relatively early show (9:30 – 10:45 pm), I was so amped when I got home that I stayed up until 3am. And then the alarm went off at 6am… So off I go. But I don’t need to tell you much more anyway. Check them out when they come through your town. Or watch some videos from the show last night: