Concert Review: Nine Inch Nails @ Molson Ampitheatre, Toronto 6/2/09

“Bow down before the one you serve
You’re going to get what you deserve.”

Head Like A Hole – Nine Inch Nails

I admit it;  for all of my griping about my last Nine Inch Nails show, the announcement of the NIN/JA tour and Trent’s ominous “after this, Nine Inch Nails is going away indefinitely” blog had me glued to my computer on presale day, determined not to miss what might be my last chance at seeing a band that shaped my musical landscape from my teens forward.  As much as I like to think that Trent’s choice of words indicates that he will continue to make music, albeit released from the box of expectations associated with the NIN brand, I fear Trent has grown tired of the bullshit of the industry and fickle fans unwilling to embrace anything new.  This astonishes me, as I’m of the opinion that The Slip was one of Trent’s strongest albums to date;  it delivered hard rocking tracks with biting lyrics, danceable tracks for nights at the rock club, and haunting melancholy pieces.  Its one weakness perhaps is Corona Radiata, which isn’t terrible, but is not up to par with other instrumental works he’s done.

With this tour, a co-headliner with the reunited original line-up of Jane’s Addiction, Trent has been treating fans to more varied sets night to night, a ban on the omnipresent Closer (a shame, since there are other songs far more in need of retirement, like Hurt), and breaking out songs that have been scarcely/never seen live.  With minimal instrumental tracks, a plain stage show without visual effects typical for NIN tour set-ups and NIN NOT headlining, it was a very different animal from recent tours.  That said, I’d have to declare this the best of the three shows I’ve seen.

This show, with a few set insertions/switches (Somewhat Damaged in lieu of March of the Pigs; The Wretched in lieu of I Do Not Want This; Dead Souls in lieu of Burn, which I love but have heard), was custom-designed from my dreams.  Sure, I could have easily embraced other songs not played, but all of them have been done for me before, so I very easily will live.  There were no instrumentals, no long periods of Ghost tracks, no weak songs.  The set was incredibly hard and up-tempo.  Best of all, I was graced with my favourite track of all, The Fragile.  My set staples (Terrible Lie; Head Like A Hole; Gave Up) all made it that night, and the brain-dead clapping spider monkeys that ruined Hurt at my last show did not attend, it seems.  Trent threw down microphone stands and his keyboard, tripped and fell in his angsty vigor, and generally belted his heart and soul out, with an extremely poignant whispered “Goodbye” as he left the stage.  I truly feel the lack of restriction and repetition that comes with more elaborately staged tours did wonders for the performance in Toronto.  If Trent is to return, with a new project or with NIN, I hope he leans towards a loosely structured stage show in the future.

The entire show was pretty much a highlight, but I’ll point out a few tracks here that really stood out for me:

1,000,000:  This track is stellar, classic Broken-esque NIN.  How anyone can slag The Slip with this brilliant song being on the disc, I do not know.  Coming off Terrible Lie into this track made for vicious headbanging delight.

Heresy:  I’d never heard this one live, and it was incredibly good, a great crowd sing-along for the chorus in my area of the theatre.

I’m Afraid Of Americans:  Despite my assuming that the earlier appearance of Metal would be our only cover of the night, in hindsight, this song’s appearance shouldn’t have surprised me at the one Canadian date of the tour.  Trent really poured himself into this Bowie track, pretty much blowing the minds of the entire audience.

The Fragile:  This song has an inredible significance to my own life, and did not disappoint me.  The vocal delivery was appropriately soft at the start, growing in strength towards the peak at the end.  Why oh why did I not see the tour for this album?  It made for an incredible transition from I Do Not Want This, the contrast sharp between it and “Don’t you tell me how I feel…”

Mr. Self-Destruct:  This song was too hot for words.  I’d never heard this either, and it’s a favourite from The Downward Spiral for me.  I think this was the track where I completely screwed the muscles in my shoulders and neck rocking out.  It was worth it.

Head Like A Hole:  Way back in grade ten, on the bus for a school trip next to my oblivious History class crush, said crush offered to share his headphones with me after I said I had never heard Nine Inch Nails.  His mix tape of personal favourites began with this song, and from moment one, I was hooked.  This needed to be in my goodbye show as a full circle moment.  I actually found myself rather emotional, knowing the set was closing as my fandom had begun.

Hurt:  I’m kind of tired of this song overall, but in the context of a goodbye tour, with such a fragility to Trent’s vocals (and no off beat clapping), this moved me.

Well done, Mr. Reznor.  Well done, indeed.  Please don’t go away for good.  Enjoy your break, renew and revive your creativity, and I’m sure I speak for every fan who’s attended this tour when I say I hope we see you again soon.

For the record, opener Street Sweeper Social Club was incredible, and I highly recommend you hit ninja2009.com and download the sampler for this tour, which includes all three bands on the bill.  Due to work constraints I had to bail halfway through Jane’s Addiction;s set but I have to say Perry Farrell is an incredible showman and their performance was tight.  Check them out too!
SETLIST

Now I’m Nothing
Terrible Lie
1,000,000
Heresy
March of the Pigs
Metal (Gary Numan)
The Becoming
I’m Afraid of Americans (Bowie)
Burn
Gave Up
I Do Not Want This
The Fragile
The Way Out Is Through
Wish
Survivalism
Mr. Self-Destruct
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

Hurt

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