Without knowing what shape, nor time, nor place it would happen, I’d been anticipating this night for four years. “I won’t let you down,” Trent Reznor assured everyone during Nine Inch Nails’ final show of the Wave Goodbye Tour, on September 10, 2009.
True to his word, Reznor has not disappointed. During the Nine Inch Nails “hiatus”, Reznor brilliantly scored 2 soundtracks, one of which landed him an Oscar. He also co-created How To Destroy Angels with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, which included one of the most visually impressive productions I’ve witnessed. Rather than continuously churning out albums and tours as Nine Inch Nails, Reznor recognized he needed a break, focusing on other creative and personal endeavors. The creative freedom and perspective gained from his Nine Inch Nails “break” (arguably one of the most productive “breaks” on record), was evident during Tuesday night’s show.
For all in attendance, the Nine Inch Nails show at The Troubadour was a story of miracles.
Listening to the crowd prior to the show, provided hours of “how I got in” stories. One woman was determined to win tickets for her boyfriend, so he could see his favorite band on his birthday. Another woman described her meticulous strategy for winning tickets from radio stations, including the theory that land lines provide a better chance of winning than mobile phones. People described how they enlisted co-workers, friends, and relatives to help them pound the phones each time a KROQ DJ announced “one lucky caller” would win a pair of tickets.
Prior to the show, a man worked the line, offering people $800 a ticket. Perhaps he did eventually make his way in, but from what I saw, observing the first 100 people in line, he was met with one consistent response: silence and a definitive shake of the head, “no.” Money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t replace a once-in-a-lifetime Nine Inch Nails experience.
Everybody in attendance recognized and deeply appreciated the fact that they were seeing Nine Inch Nails at The Troubadour, an intimate venue, with rich history. The atmosphere prior to the show was gracious, celebratory, and invigorating. People didn’t wait until the show began to enjoy the experience. They’d been enjoying this night since the moment they knew they would be among a mere couple hundred people who would see Nine Inch Nails play The Troubadour.
A few minutes prior to 8:30pm, the energy inside the venue shifted. There was a collective understanding that this was the time to take care of any last minute needs or desires. People worked together, taking turns buying t-shirts, drinks, and making their final bathroom run of the evening.
When Nine Inch Nails hit the stage, it was explosive. Kicking the set off with “Somewhat Damaged”, the band and the crowd took the energy to otherworldly levels. The sound – despite its high volume – was crystal clear. There was no unintended distortion. The sound being as perfect as it was, I neglected to wear earplugs.
Yep, there were lights.
I wish I could describe what it felt like to be at The Troubadour when Nine Inch Nails played. We may have been inside a small venue, but from a production standpoint, this was no little show. One third of the balcony appeared to be taken over by the band’s equipment. When the show began, the neon “Troubadour” light behind the stage was dimmed. The audience was transported to a place they’d never been, even if they’d previously seen Nine Inch Nails a hundred times before.
That is among the reasons Nine Inch Nails is widely lauded as one of the best (if not the best) live bands in the world. No matter how many times you see them, every experience is unique, and the definition of “perfection” evolves.
For me, what stands out most is how much Trent Reznor cares and how apparent that is in everything he does. This is his life, his art, his passion. He cares about the experience as a whole, that people continually walk away, as I do, drenched in sweat and nearly speechless. Every show is unique, surprising, and absolutely mind, spirit, and energy altering.
Prior to the show, people speculated about the set list. The majority of fans suspected the band would play the new album, Hesitation Marks, straight through. Some elaborated that, following the new songs, Nine Inch Nails would certainly play some of their older material. This is what happens to music fans’ expectations when Nine Inch Nails leaves the scene. We become accustomed to, and expect that, every show is about pushing a new album or promoting something else entirely. That is how most bands would do it. That is how nearly every band I’ve seen this year has done it. That is the format we’ve grown accustomed to and accept.
This is how Nine Inch Nails did it at The Troubadour:
1. Somewhat Damaged
2. The Beginning of the End
3. Terrible Lie
4. March of the Pigs
6. The Line Begins to Blur
7. The Frail/ The Wretched
8. I’m Afraid of Americans (David Bowie cover)
9. Gave Up
12. The Warning
13. Find My Way
14. Came Back Haunted
18. The Hand That Feeds
19. Head Like a Hole
20. La Mer
For those who are less familiar with Nine Inch Nails’ discography, that’s a 21-song set list, including a mere three songs from the new album.
It almost seems as if Trent Reznor takes it as a personal responsibility to make people question – and raise – their expectations. Every time I see Nine Inch Nails I’m surprised, even though I shouldn’t be. They are my favorite band to see live. I know how good they are. I know what they’re capable of. Then, they remind me: no matter how much I think I know, no matter how high my expectations, Nine Inch Nails leaves me at a loss for words with their sheer brilliance and dedication.
Their energy never wanes. Likewise, there’s no ramp-up time. When the band first burst onto stage, I felt like I had been blown back twenty feet. There was a simultaneous sound and light explosion that removed the audience from whatever day it was, whatever they had been thinking about, wherever they were – physically and mentally – and transported them to another world.
Similarly, for Nine Inch Nails, the encore isn’t when they play their “biggest hits” or “fan favorites.” NIN takes the word “encore” literally – “another.” They return to the stage for more of what they’ve done – a mind-blowing level of making people lose their shit.
In addition to his integrity and dedication, Reznor exudes gratitude. With everything they do, Nine Inch Nails’ recognition of their fans is expressed. I walk away from each Nine Inch Nails show with an overwhelming feeling that the band truly appreciates each of us; not because Reznor says “thank you” numerous times, but because of the show itself.
Nine Inch Nails kicks off their U.S. tour later this month. See them if you’re able: http://tour.nin.com/
Earlier today, a publicist friend of mine suggested I request press credentials for a forthcoming, new, music festival. “They’ll look at my site and see that I haven’t updated it in months,” I replied. It’s what I said at the outset: I’m not going to write about every show I see, but I will write about the shows I think everyone should experience.
One of the benefits of seeing Joseph Arthur play multiple times is that you simultaneously experience and witness continuous transformation. Listening to Joe play songs from his latest album, The Ballad of Boogie Christ, takes you further along the journey, while maintaining a connection to his beginnings. There’s a through-line that creates the foundation for the audience to step into the next adventure.
Walking onto the stage, in a white suit that appears to have remnants of a painting which extended beyond its original canvas, Joseph Arthur epitomizes “artist.” Appearing as though he sought out the shortest route from the art studio to the stage, he is perpetually creating. The stage becomes his art studio, whether he’s literally painting while singing (as he’s done previously), or playing a new arrangement of an older song (as he did several times tonight).
This show feels and sounds vastly different from other Joseph Arthur shows. It’s clear that this is a new chapter. There are far fewer pedals and more musicians on stage. The show is upbeat, soulful, and rooted in rock. The songs build to a crescendo and you’re enveloped in sound.
When Joseph Arthur plays, it’s more than a concert – he begins with a blank canvas and takes you on a journey. There are nods to the past, the future is optimistic, and you’re grounded – with him – in the present. As with life and relationships, every show is unique. You are part of the experience.
The venue is intimate, but the sound is big. At times it felt as though we were in a stadium, witnessing an immense rock show. “I intentionally didn’t bring a harmonica or acoustic guitar this time,” Joe told me. The instruments have changed; the sound accompanies and embraces the change. The show is infused with passion, love, dedication, and a reminder of what it means to truly be alive.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we are constantly changing. The ideas, beliefs, and ways of life that keep us happy, healthy, and fulfilled, follow suit. When we’re aware of and welcome the changes, we liberate ourselves – we allow ourselves to be the dynamic individuals that we are. We’re present in every moment, constantly creating, being as we are, without attachment.
Walking away from a show, reminded of some of life’s greatest gifts – the ability to create, continuously evolve, and express different incarnations of ourselves during the same lifetime – is definitely worth the price of admission. Not to mention, the music and experience itself is incomparable.
Keep an eye on his tour page and see Joseph Arthur live when the opportunity arises.
Late last year I saw Black Box Revelation open a show at The Wiltern. I had to reference Google to remember what show it was, but I had no problem remembering Black Box Revelation.
What struck me about their show at The Wiltern was its authenticity. It didn’t feel like it was about money or fame, a “hit” nor a label. With Jan Paternoster and Dries Van Dijck (Black Box Revelation) it was simply: music. After that initial show, I vowed to see them the next time they came to L.A.
October 17th was a particularly busy night in Los Angeles, musically speaking. There were, at minimum, five competing shows I would have liked to see. Depending on the set times and the distance between venues – if you’re not drinking – it is possible to see 2-3 shows in one night in Los Angeles. I’ve done it before, but on this particular Wednesday night I was drinking and I was determined to see one band: Black Box Revelation, at The Troubadour.
When Paternoster and Van Dijck started playing, I forgot about all the other places I had considered going, the other bands I might have seen. There was a reason I vowed to see Black Box Revelation the next time they played in L.A. and I was rewarded for sticking to the plan.
Perhaps it’s because they hail from Brussels where, I imagine, if you’re playing music, it’s truly for the sake of playing music. It could be the lack of props and a light show that keeps the focus on the music. Or, maybe it’s the way some people compare them to The Black Keys and The White Stripes, which makes sense in that they play rock music and it feels familiar. Yet, Black Box Revelation is different. Perhaps the familiar feeling is the comfort that comes with consistency in quality.
During the course of two shows, I’ve identified numerous things I find appealing about Black Box Revelation, yet they still maintain a sense of mystery. Not only do they play rock & roll music, they are rock & roll, to the core. Their music is your invitation into their world. The rest is up to you. Don’t expect this band to put out a lyrics video. They won’t stop the show to explain the meaning of the next song they’re going to play. They don’t hard-sell you to visit the merch table. Black Box Revelation doesn’t insult your intelligence. They trust you’ll get it.
Before the music business there was music. Black Box Revelation is keeping that era alive.
Thomas Lindsey kicked off the night with tremendous courage, backed by his exceptional talent. The crowd at The Troubadour was living Friday night like they earned it – cocktails flowing, conversations buzzing – the room was charged. . . and loud. With no introduction, Thomas Lindsey took the stage, looked around, and began to sing. No instruments. No band. It took Lindsey precisely 17 seconds to silence and command the attention of everyone in the room.
Given Stewart’s talent and true genius, his shows are something that need to be experienced first-hand. He takes music, rock & roll, community, collaboration, and style to new heights. If you pay attention to the subtleties, you’ll also discover his quick and poignant sense of humor. Something about Stewart – everything about Stewart – will make you feel more alive, infinite, and connected. He reminds you that rock & roll is meant to be fun, celebratory, and invigorating.
As is the case with Stewart, Stewart’s 12-year old daughter, Kaya, is a talent you need to see for yourself. She will blow you away, period. Kaya raises the bar. The music business should be afraid.
Stewart was joined on stage by a great group of exceptionally talented friends. Among my favorites – and I’ve seen her before – is Orianthi. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. If you haven’t seen her perform, prioritize it on your to-do list. She’ll simultaneously kick your ass and melt your heart, simply in the way she plays. Then, after a couple hours of giving everything she has to live music, she comes off stage and gives everything she has to fans, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and having in-depth, meaningful conversations. If you didn’t know better, you’d think everyone Orianthi met in the crowd for the first time was actually a long-time, dear friend. Again, she’ll kick your ass and melt your heart.
You had to be there. I was there and came home so amped up I couldn’t sleep. Time for coffee.
Here are some pictures:
Thomas Lindsey silenced the entire room, using nothing other than his voice
“I’m no longer who I was, no longer who I thought I was. . . ” Joseph Arthur sang during a stellar performance of his song, “You Are Free” at The Troubadour. Well, I’ve been seeing Arthur perform live for the past 11 years and I don’t know who he thinks he is, but I think he is still one of the best songwriters around.
The first time I saw Joseph Arthur play he was opening for David Gray at The Palace (now The Avalon) in Hollywood. He performed solo and I watched in amazement as Arthur used numerous pedals to create and loop sounds, building momentum and evolving into extraordinary songs.
Joe and his pedals
It was the first time I had experienced an audience uproar for an opening act to do an encore performance (this was before Queens of The Stone Age opened for Nine Inch Nails). The crowd went insane when Arthur finished his short 30-minute set and were absolutely devastated when he didn’t return for an encore. After David Gray’s set, people were still talking about Joseph Arthur.
Flash forward to January 23, 2010: At this point Arthur can build a song by looping various beats and sounds, as he creates them, effortlessly. Once he lays down the tracks, he can paint while singing.
Joseph Arthur live painting
I’ve seen some live painting during concerts in my time, but usually the painter is another artist, not the performing musician. In Joseph Arthur’s case, he performs while simultaneously painting on several massive canvases. Arthur wasn’t just painting on stage because he could. After the show, Arthur sold his paintings, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
It wasn’t just Arthur, a bunch of pedals, and a paintbrush on stage. Ben Harper sat among Arthur’s very talented band, playing lap steel guitar. Harper accompanied Arthur on vocals during one of his more recognized songs, “In The Sun.” Harper also lent vocals to one of my favorite Joseph Arthur songs, “Ashes Everywhere.” In addition to Ben
Harper, Arthur was joined by band mates Jessy Green, Sibyl Buck, and Kraig Jarret.
Joe sings to the painting
As Arthur played, he’d often look back at the paintings as if he was singing a line specifically to them. “Your holiness is gone. . .” he sang back to a painting, possibly a self-portrait, during “September Baby.” Then Arthur would turn to the audience and sing, “Sometimes love will make you sad until you know where you belong.” And then back to the painting, “You’ll dream of what you never had. . . ”
Arthur played for nearly 3 hours, performing songs including “Honey and The Moon,” “Crying Like A Man,” “Slide Away,” and “Birthday Card.” Several years ago Arthur would play these similarly long sets at Largo, as if he wanted to make up for the lack of an encore during the David Gray show, or just wanted to ensure the audience was satiated. Nobody left early during those intimate shows and such was the case during Arthur’s set at The Troubadour. Although in this case, prior to his second encore, Arthur remarked, “That would be it (the end of the show), but I’ve got to finish these paintings.”
After the show, Arthur made his way to the front room where he signed autographs and took photos with every fan. He continued painting between photos and autographs, sometimes with frustration, other times with ease. Arthur also sold live bootlegs of that night’s show immediately following the set – something he began doing several years ago and that I was pleased to see him continuing to do.
After all these years, thankfully, Joseph Arthur is still who I thought he was.