Metal Hammer


Juni 2005




Autor: John Doran





Nine Inch Nails

The Astoria, London

The usually cavernous stage of Londons Astoria looks compact and bijou tonight with NIN on it. The band are situated on tiers and are positioned like a particularly aggressive and depressed five-a-side football team, hanging around for their captain to show his face. During the wait for Trent Reznor you notice an odd thing about the light show; namely how dark it is; you have to strain to be able to make out what is going on. Thin strips of vertical neon light are the only attempt at decoration and the stage set looks like the interior of an old and entirely functional space freighter. When the taskmaster walks onstage without ostentation, there is pandemonium in the crowd and immediately you can tell that he has gone through some lifestyle changes. Just as the daily bath of alcohol and cocaine has been consigned to the bin, so have his widow‘s weeds. Tonight he is wearing cream cargo pants, espadrilles and a lime coloured, crushed velvet smoking jacket and in between songs he puffs enigmatically on his cigarette holder while engaging in witty banter with the audience. Nope, we‘re lying. He actually looks like he always looks: an angry man child in a black mesh top. You know, like a moody sea devil in an onyx coloured wig. If anything, the newly clean Reznor has everything to prove tonight. Now that he isn‘t using any more, can he really still claim to be the biographer of the dark side? Put simply, now that he is into the middle years of his career, can he still cut the industrial metal mustard? If anything, Mr Rez seems to be maturing well, like a diabolically expensive wine.

The set is muscular, taut, tetchy and straight to the point. There is no talking, the crowd aren‘t acknowledged once, they don‘t come back for an encore but they still manage to fill two hours full of hits, playing just four new songs and absolutely no filler. The first of the new cuts from their fourth full album, ‘With Teeth’, ‘You Know Who You Are?‘ is tough and ugly enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the old favourites with its hectic tribal drumming and vicious little guitar loop. Only a few songs in it‘s easy to see why tickets are changing hands for £800 on Ebay and touts are practically lynching each other to buy and sell outside: no one does industrial music as good as this any more.

‘Piggy‘ brings down the tempo but pumps up the intensity and the crowd carry the man-at-the-end-of-his-tether refrain of “Nothing can stop me now/because I don‘t care anymore“ all the way to the end until the crowd erupt. Reznor, the cheeky bastard that he is, then cocks his head to one side as if trying to make something out, despite the audience applause sounding like a space shuttle taking off. ‘Terrible Lie‘ makes an interesting counterpoint to the handful of new tracks tonight as most of them could have easily come from a more sophisticated and amped-up version of ‘Pretty Hate Machine’. This time around it is even more stripped down than the already anorexic 1989 version and the (now) slightly Kevin The Teenager-esque lyrics about his cheating ex-girlfriend seem a bit lightweight compared to the darker subject matter that came along later.

It takes ‘Fist Fuck‘ to really get the band into a totally demented frame of mind and bouncing of the speaker stacks. From this point on, ex-Icarus Line guitarist, Aaron North, spends most of the gig playing upside down or in midair. Reznor takes centre stage alone for a moving, piano-led and audience enrapturing version of ‘Hurt’, his autobiographical heroin as selfharm metaphor that was propelled into the mainstream consciousness by a harrowing and moving Johnny Cash cover version. Now, he wisely covers the cover version, paying tribute to the great man, stylistically and ironically, in doing so, grabs it back for himself.

Three verses later the band stride back on to add an apocalyptic last round. After a Ministry style newie ‘The Hand That Feeds‘ there is only time to romp through the Courtney Love lambasting ‘Star Fuckers Inc‘ and favourite ‘Head Like A Hole‘ before striding from the stage without uttering a word. In one fell swoop, NIN have proved that they are still way ahead of the pack; drugs or no drugs.

John Doran (9)