I’ve seen a few shows since and scattered in between the final Nine Inch Nails concerts.
The reason I haven’t written about these shows is that they pale in comparison to the NIN experiences of the past week. The musicians I’ve seen are all very talented – exceptionally talented – and they deserve more than an uninspired review from me.
NIN Wave Goodbye at The Wiltern
In some ways NIN has f*cked up music by being so good. If you don’t think so, spend some time with their albums. The songs are layered, large, intense, spacious, melodic, unpredictable, calming, and frenetic. They are true compositions. The stories and lyrics are timeless, allowing the meaning of the songs to evolve as we do. That’s why songs written 20 years ago maintain the impact they would have if they were written today. Making music of this magnitude allows the band to launch innovative extensions of the songs – full-blown characters and story-lines, a potential TV series, DRM-free video files for infinite fan-created remixes. It also allows them to refrain from lyrics altogether and to release strictly instrumental compositions and projects such as Ghosts.
So, when I walked into a store this weekend and they were playing some diluted pop-hip-hop “song” I had to leave. I don’t know what song it was – I didn’t recognize it and I certainly wasn’t going to hang out in the store to find out. I actually found the “music” insulting. It was manufactured, meaningless, and lacking soul. Summer camp songs have more depth than some of the stuff that’s currently on the radio.
Perhaps part of the reason people aren’t buying music the way they used to is because much of it just isn’t that good. It was crafted quickly and in a formulaic fashion to be a “radio hit”. It lacks depth and therefore timeless endurance. Which means people are paying for songs that they may like for a couple months to a year, until they themselves outgrow it or it gets overplayed on the radio. What makes it even harder to sell music like that is that some of the best bands of our time – Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails – give their music away for free. Why pay for crap when you can get the good stuff for free? By the way, I think Radiohead and NIN are genius for doing this.
Last night the VMAs were on. I didn’t watch them. I didn’t have to. Every trending topic on Twitter was VMA-related. Friends, colleagues, and musicians were updating their Facebook status with commentary about the VMAs. And what I learned from reading enough sub-140 character descriptions of the show is that I didn’t miss a thing. The people who were ranting about the show for hours, they’re the ones who missed something. . .
Taking it a step further – hopefully you’ve seen Nine Inch Nails live. They’re now taking an indefinite break from touring and while it’s understandable and admirable, it still feels like a loss. The band will continue to make music in some form together and as individuals with other bands, but for the foreseeable future they will not be touring together.
Trent addressing somebody in the audience
I think what makes them so good is that they’re so real. While there may be light shows and spectacle, the authenticity of each moment is felt by the audience. I’m not sure the crowd even feels like an “audience” – from my perspective, the audience is hugely participatory in creating the experience of Nine Inch Nails shows. This is one example of a consistent energy exchange between musician on stage and fan in the crowd that is felt by all. The set list changes dramatically every night. New songs may be added, without the ideal rehearsal time, keeping the band on their toes so the performances don’t feel like performances. It actually feels like the band is playing the songs and it’s the first time you’re seeing them live (even if you’ve seen them dozens of times).
Trent is also a perfectionist – more for the fans than for himself. If a song isn’t going off right on stage, if there are technical difficulties, if he isn’t authentically feeling his performance in that moment, he’ll bag it. Additionally, NIN has a tendency to make even bad-sounding venues sound good. While the audio quality on some of the live videos I shot isn’t good (due to the technical limitations of the equipment I was using), in-person, at every show, Nine Inch Nails delivers impeccable sound. It’s one of the few concerts I’ve never had to wear earplugs to. And that says a lot when you consider how loud and “noisy” some may consider their music to be. But that goes back to the composition – it’s not really “noisy” – it’s layer upon layer of sound. And Trent wants you to hear all of that, so they present it live with the perfect mix. . . every time.
Nine Inch Nails at Santa Barbara Bowl, NIN/JA Tour
They are so exceptional live that even seeing another “great band” just doesn’t hold up. I remember seeing NIN at the Santa Barbara Bowl during this Summer’s NIN/JA tour. The first thing that struck me about that show is that they were playing outside, during the daylight. What, no lights? So many people look forward to NIN’s light shows and seem to feel they’re integral to the whole experience. And yet, when you see them without all that spectacle, you’re reminded of their sheer talent. They don’t need lights or visual effects. All they need to do is play.
Nine Inch Nails was “opening” (although, it was billed as “co-headlining”) for Jane’s Addiction. Now, Jane’s Addiction is a really good band. I’ve seen several great Jane’s concerts during the past decade. There are some amazing musicians in that band – Stephen Perkins and Dave Navarro are some of my favorites. Perry Farrell is a wonderful performer. He’s dynamic, energetic, dramatic – a true showman, an amazing front-man. And yet, when Nine Inch Nails finished their opening set, I looked at my friends and said, “I love Jane’s Addiction, but we may need to leave. I don’t know how they’re going to come anywhere close to that!” In the end, we stayed throughout Jane’s set and we had a good time. They were fun. They sounded great. But Nine Inch Nails. . .
One show I did go see this past week was the closing show of the season at The Hollywood Bowl – Seu Jorge and Bebel Gilberto, with the LA Philharmonic. That was nice. It’s outdoors, at one of my favorite venues, and it’s enough of a departure from what I usually see that there was no potential for comparison. I did briefly contemplate the idea of Trent playing Ghosts (perhaps all 4 current volumes, or the new ones that are due to come out) with the LA Philharmonic at some point. Then the fireworks began and brought me back to the present moment.
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.
Henry Fonda Theater
NIN Wave Goodbye Tour, night 3
September 8, 2009
You give me the reason. . .
“Wait – wasn’t Sunday’s show at the Echoplex supposed to be the last one??” For those of you who haven’t been following the events surrounding the final four Nine Inch Nails shows, there were some. . . complications. After playing a brilliant show (although he was sick) at The Palladium on September 2nd, Trent had to reschedule the NIN shows at Henry Fonda Theater (capacity: 1,300) and The Wiltern (capacity: 2,200) because he was too ill to perform. Well, nobody’s complaining tonight!
I’ve been to A LOT of “best concerts ever”, but this may be the one that trumps them all.
Let’s start from the beginning: Attending these final Nine Inch Nails shows makes me feel like the luckiest person alive. It’s also like being on Survivor NIN. Here’s how it goes:
Line-up to pick up your tickets.
Make alliances in line.
Line-up to enter venue.
Eat dinner in line.
Hydrate. But not too much. You don’t want to have to leave during the show to go to the bathroom. Nor do you want to fight your way back to your spot after doing so.
Make more alliances in this second line.
Conspire with other fans to find the guy who’s buying up all the tour shirts and selling them on eBay.
If anybody asks what happened to that guy, everybody uses the “I don’t know – I was standing in line with all these guys” alibi.
Get strip searched on the way into the venue. They told me they were “looking for weapons. . . or jewelry”.
Try to figure out why they’re looking for jewelry.
Enter the venue and get in the merch line, hoping they don’t sell out of event shirts this time.
Look for the guy who’s been selling shirts on eBay. Somebody must have already taken care of him.
Grab a spot on the floor, surrounded by new friends and stand your ground for the next 5 hours
Get an amazing shoulder workout by holding the camera above your head for several hours
The only difference is – on Survivor you win a million dollars. Tonight we won the best performance we could have hoped for from Nine Inch Nails. Yes, I’d rather have that than the million dollars at this point.
NIN kicked off with “Head Like A Hole” and the crowd went nuts (I’ll post the video as soon as it’s done uploading). From that point forward the energy just continued to rise. The walls at the Fonda were shaking. From “Head Like A Hole” they went straight into “Terrible Lie” which is always a welcome song. Next, they played “Sin” which I had been not-so-secretly hoping to hear during these final shows. It’s one of my favorite NIN songs and it’s been a little while since I’ve seen them perform it live.
Wish there was something real. Wish there was something true.
Alright – I just took a brief time-out because I have A.D.D. and did a trend search on Twitter for #NIN. . . Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. Everybody is talking about how this was “the best show ever.” And thanks to them for reminding me to tell you that the show was 3 hours. Solid. 2 encores. Guest appearances by Mike Garson (Bowie), Gary Numan (who needed no introduction this time), Eric Avery (Jane’s Addiction), Danny Lohner (NIN), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan). They finally played “Atmosphere” (following a failed attempt due to technical difficulties at The Echoplex on Sunday).
I don’t ordinarily do this because there are plenty of places that post the setlist and there are so many other details that can be written about that illuminate the experience, but in this rare (and perhaps only) instance, here’s the setlist from tonight’s show:
Head like a hole
1. “Head Like A Hole”
2. “Terrible Lie”
4. “March Of The Pigs”
8. “I’m Afraid Of Americans”
10. “Head Down”
12. “Letting You”
14. “Gave Up”
16. “Just Like You Imagined” (Featuring Mike Garson)
17. “The Becoming” (Featuring Mike Garson)
18. “I Do Not Want This” (Featuring Mike Garson)
19. “Down In The Park” (Featuring Gary Numan)
20. “Metal” (Featuring Gary Numan)
21. “Cars” (Featuring Gary Numan and Eric Avery)
22. “Anthrax” (Gang of Four) (Featuring Gary Numan and Eric Avery)
23. “Heresy” (with Danny Lohner)
24. “Get Down Make Love” (Queen) (with Danny Lohner)
25. “Mr. Self Destruct” (Featuring Greg Puciato and Danny Lohner)
26. “Wish” (Featuring Greg Puciato and Danny Lohner)
27. “The Hand That Feeds”
28. “Atmosphere” (Joy Divison)
29. “Dead Souls” (Joy Division)
30. “The Day The World Went Away”
The band sounded great. Guitars and equipment were tossed in the air. Trent easily jumped 4 feet high and the crowd did the same. With this performance Trent and the band seemed to be saying a few things:
“Sorry we had to postpone the original show. But you see now, right? THIS is the show we wanted to give you and we couldn’t have done it while I was sick.”
“We really are leaving for a while. But before we do – we’re going to remind you that we’re one of the best live bands you’ll ever see.”
“I’m sweating more than you.”
I could go on and on, but you’d get sick of hearing me tell you how phenomenal this night was. So hear it from some other people – do a Twitter search for #NIN. I’m not the only one.
September 2, 2009
Wave Goodbye Tour
It’s not often that the better a show is, the sadder the audience gets. But such is the case when Nine Inch Nails takes the stage for one of the last times ever.
Nine Inch Nails is one of the best bands in the world. Even if you don’t like their music, you can’t deny how amazing they are. Well, you can deny it, but somebody will likely slap the $h!t out of you.
Tonight marked the first of four intimate NIN shows in Los Angeles. This is also the fourth to the last show Nine Inch Nails will ever play live (hopefully they change their mind about that in a couple years). I’m still somewhat speechless so please forgive the brevity.
They could have played anything and I would have been happy. As they did at New York’s Webster Hall, they played The Downward Spiral in its entirety and everybody was happy.
On another note, NIN just sent a Tweet announcing that Thursday’s show at Henry Fonda is canceled, making tonight’s show at The Palladium the third to the last NIN show ever (hopefully they’ll make it for the remaining two!). Trent did mention that he was sick and couldn’t hear anything when he was performing tonight. But if he hadn’t said something, we wouldn’t have known it. He played and sounded great, 2 solid hours, no break. The announcement on the band’s website says Trent’s doctor advised that he not play the next show. “Reimbursement details will be posted as soon as we figure them out…” Fans will want more than their money back – this is an experience that they’ve been anticipating for months and one that they may not have another chance to partake in. People were already lined up outside the Fonda at 6:30pm tonight for tomorrow’s show (well, today’s show given the current hour). I feel even more blessed to have been at the Palladium for this show and hope Trent feels better soon… soon enough to play NIN’s scheduled shows Saturday and Sunday.
Speaking of the Palladium, prior to this show, I refused to go to that venue for many years. I had seen a handful of shows there (before Live Nation purchased it) and the sound was always awful. They also used to search you as if you were entering a maximum security prison. And when you got inside it kind of felt like one. Now I know there are times to get upset when big corporations step in and take over a venue, but this isn’t one of them. The sound system has been upgraded exponentially and you can walk through the front doors without feeling violated.
Bow down before the one you serve
Back to Nine Inch Nails. I can’t pick out one highlight. The entire show was a highlight. Just being there, in a small venue (capacity: 4,000), watching one of my favorite bands perform some of my favorite songs and being able to see the sweat drip off them while they moved around the stage. As usual NIN sounded great and I think everybody who was there felt like they were part of something very special. I’m not sure anybody’s feet touched the ground for longer than a few seconds — the crowd was moving and jumping non-stop. I got some video (see below) of Trent introducing Gary Numan and talking about his influence on the sound of Nine Inch Nails. Gary performed “Metal” and “Cars” with the band and the crowd went (even more) insane.
Hopefully Trent is well enough to play The Wiltern on Saturday and The Echoplex on Sunday. Hopefully you can make it to one of those shows because this is not to be missed. But just in case you’re missing this tour, here are some videos from the show at the Palladium:
March of The Pigs
Head Like A Hole
Trent introducing Gary Numan & his influence on NIN’s music