Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age at TSB Arena - review

  • Breaking
  • 21/03/2014

I feel very fortunate this week to be on the road with two of my favourite bands, Nine Inch Nails & Queens of the Stone Age.

You can see my uncut interview with QOTSA's Josh Homme here and a review of Auckland's Wednesday concert here.

Now, full disclosure and annoying information for Brody Dalle and Queens fans: I wasn't there for all of their set, so I am not going to review it. Let's get straight into Nine Inch Nails.

As good as the Auckland show was, fans who went to Wellington were rewarded with a very different set list, and a venue that felt more intimate that Auckland's Vector Arena. Sure, the TSB Arena isn't exactly heaven, but it's much better venue than it used to be - and last night it shone.

Nine Inch Nails kicked off their set just before 10pm with a pre-recorded intro of 'The Eater of Dreams', a broody teaser of a track that opened last year's Hesitation Marks. Fan's brains were instantly geared up for 'Copy of A', when Reznor turned the tables and kicked straight into 'Wish'.

Written in 1992, it was the song that won Reznor a Grammy (remarkable, considering it contained the refrain "fist-f**k") and all these years later it still packs a mean punch. The lightshow was in full strobe, lighting guru Arlo doing an outstanding job as usual.

Considering this is a lean, refined version of NIN's light show it, it's an outstanding spectacle, part industrial rock show, part dance party.

There wasn't much talking. Reznor said "Thankyou" a few times, at one point he mentioned how grateful he was to have Nine Inch Nails back again (they retired for a few years and he went and won an Oscar). He sounds genuinely grateful we are all still here.

Nine Inch Nails performing in Wellington

Reznor's wife doesn't appear for any How To Destroy Angels tracks, instead the audience is treated to 'What If We Could?', a track Reznor wrote with his Oscar-winning partner Atticus Ross. It was a nice chance to see the four-piece slow things down and show off their multi-instrument talent.

The highlight of the night came three songs in, when the lights went green and the industrial grind of 'Reptile' began. It's two decades since the release of The Downward Spiral, but songs like this just haven't dated one bit.

Which is remarkable, as rock music does tend to date terribly (especially content from the '90s), but Reznor's production was so ahead of its time the music just hasn't aged. His really old songs - Pretty Hate Machine stuff like 'Head Like a Hole' and 'Something I Can Never Have' - even sounds current, thanks to their inherent aggression and sheer volume.

If there was one track I'd drop from the night it would have been 'Letting You', as its repetitive nature was just a bit too much early in the show.

All in all, Wellington's set list felt more dancey than rocky - 'Me I'm Not' and 'Survivalism' from Year Zero, and other numbers like 'Only', getting a great response from the crowd.

It was an utter pleasure to hear 'The Great Destroyer' live - the song blipping and beeping along until Reznor's majestic delivery of the its title. It was a huge, huge moment, followed by a breakdown Aphex Twin would be proud of.

Nine Inch Nails' best album - The Fragile - didn't get much of a look in, but when Reznor takes to the keys to start 'The Frail', everyone goes bonkers. By the time 'The Wretched' kicks in, they're ecstatic.

The whole NIN show was a visual and audio assault. It was loud, and keeping it all together was a very fit and healthy Reznor.

It's a far-cry from when he first played New Zealand (their mid-90s gig at The PowerStation in support of The Downward Spiral was cancelled) 14 years ago at the Big Day Out. Reznor had just released The Fragile and was a long haired, skinny, unhinged mess. It was a startling and electric 40 minute set.

Reznor is anything but unhinged now. The 48 year old - travelling with his family - has his life together. Yet somehow, he manages to take us on a journey where by the time 'Hurt' kicks in, we're totally there with him.

Twenty six years since its inception, the NIN brand is still as strong as ever. Where it goes after this tour is anyone's guess.

Reznor told me recently he's got to finish scoring Fincher's next film Gone Girl, and get that Fragile re-release out - then we've just got to assume it's time for another Nails record.

Let's hope so.

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source: newshub archive