Concert Review: Nine Inch Nails @ ACC, Toronto 8/5/08

“I wake up
On the floor
Start it up again
Like it matters anymore
I don’t know
If it does
Is this really all
That there ever was?
Put the gun
In my mouth
Close your eyes
Blow my fucking brains out
Pretty patterns
On the floor
That’s enough for you
But i still need more…”

1,000,000 – Nine Inch Nails

Oh Trent.  You and your angst are so pretty to so many.  Your new album is a surprising throw-back to the days of Pretty Hate Machine and it pleases me with its strange danceability.  And yet, something has gone wrong with our love affair, Trent.  I walked away from your show Tuesday night feeling unsatisfied, like a lover brought nearly to climax after hours of foreplay, only for the man to shoot off, roll over and sleep, leaving me fumbling for a vibrator.

This isn’t to say that Trent has lost his live touch in terms of performance;  despite being under the weather, the man whispered, growled and screamed his way through a long set of songs with gusto, complete with an incredible visual display of lights and projected images true to the NIN tradition.  What was lacking in this show was proper setlist placement, resulting in a show that packed on the ferocity towards the end of the main set, only to chill to near-lounge mellowness for the entire encore, including the audience-ruined classic Hurt (can you people NOT clap in rhythm, if you feel the need to clap?  It’s Hurt, not Heresy.  Oi.).  I’ve delayed this review for several days, mainly because I walked out with such a nasty taste in my mouth from the lacklustre finale that I began to wonder whether I was “getting over” Nine Inch Nails, music in general, or perhaps just suffering from a basic concept in Psychology known as the Recency Effect (i.e., we remember well what we heard/saw most recently).  After several days (and an enthusiastic listening of Somewhat Damaged last night), I’ve concluded that the encore, being the last thing I heard, overshadowed the rest of the show, thus doing the precise opposite of what an encore is meant to do:  send you onto the streets happy and wishing for more, full of energy (and usually the band’s latest kicking single).

I have to say that opening band Deerhunter failed completely.  Very few people in the pit were impressed, and that went double for the stands.  I was completely unimpressed with their failure to effectively use multiple lead guitars, their contrived sound that felt like a bastard child of Nirvana on Ritalin…  Ugh.  No words.  Completely cliched and awful.  Did Trent pick them?  How could he go from openers like A Perfect Circle and The Dresden Dolls to that?  But enough of them;  on to the main event…

I should have sense a strange disturbance in the force when Discipline, the lead single from Trent’s latest offering The Slip emerged early in the set in a rapid-fire assault of tracks from that disc, including the delicious track 1,000,000 which feels in a way as a “fuck off” to fans wanting more ’emo’ Trent since his addiction recovery (“That’s enough for you…“).  Trent and company rocked the show nicely at first, and then the pattern of the night became more apparent:  he was going to conduct mini-concerts for each release lacking a proper tour thus far in Canada.  An extended instrumental sequence featuring multiple tracks from Ghosts went on just a little too long, to the point where I nearly dozed off despite the beautiful staging and my general like of the double-disc set (perhaps it was second-hand pot from the people in front of me blazing up?).

Then began a primarily ‘old’ set of classics, heavily laden with material prior to The Fragile, which leads me to my next complaint, and one that holds from their last outings here for With Teeth:  what the hell is up with the complete ignoring of The Fragile, which is one of my favourite NIN discs?  Seriously, between two shows, I’ve heard three songs, one instrumental, and none of them major singles.  Where are Starfuckers Inc, We’re In This Together, The Fragile, The Day The World Went Away or Somewhat Damaged?  Late in the set, while talking to the crowd, Trent noted this was the beginning of the tour and that the band had spent “four months locked ina dark room, trying to figure out what the fans wanted to hear”.  Appearently Trent couldn’t seet the cardboard casing of The Fragile in his little mortuary of practice space.  I know the album sold well;  where are the tunes, goddamn it?

Sliding in towards and through the encore, we were primarily showered with tracks from Year Zero, which was not toured in Canada, and again felt like an overkill mini-set.  What’s worse, after Hurt, Trent went out on mellow track In This Twilight instead of something with oomph like Capital G or, hey, for a mellow-ish outro, how about the single My Violent Heart?  Of four encore tracks, 3 were down notes.  That’s NOT how to wrap a show.  If you swapped the last four tracks of the main set with the encore, I would have had a much more favourable impression of the show.  I left half-asleep and annoyed instead of pumped and enthused.

Please don’t get me wrong;  I love mellow tracks as well.  But you really need to keep a set mixed, and usually Trent is solid for it.  The albums weren’t mixed, the set went through distinct up and down periods, and it just felt disjointed in a very bad way.  Perhaps with feeling ill, Trent kept the ending easy, avoiding vocal acrobatics?  It’s the only excuse I can think of.  Then again, the main set closed HARD.  And why were the albums not blended together?  Why separate the albums in the set?

Overall, the show, especially the main set, was a solid outing.  But having come from my last show, where I had no idea what track would be next, where the encore rocked, this paled dramatically in comparison.  Amazing what setlist order can do…  I’ve never experienced disliking a show almost strictly on set order before.

SETLIST:  NINE INCH NAILS @ ACC, TORONTO 8/5/08

999,999

1,000,000

Letting You

Discipline

March of the Pigs

Head Down

The Frail

Closer

Gave Up

The Warning [play it]

Vessel

Ghosts 5

Ghosts 6

Ghosts 19

Ghosts Piggy

The Greater Good

Pinion

Wish

Terrible Lie

Survivalism

The Big Come Down

Ghosts 31

Only [play it]

The Hand That Feeds

Head Like A Hole

ENCORE:

Echoplex

God Given

The Good Soldier

Hurt

In This Twilight

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