Nine Inch Nails at O2 Arena

Having never been to the O2 Arena for a gig, I was incredibly excited to be heading there last night. The place is massive, the sound is amazing, the lighting incredible (albeit blinding). But, of course, the highlight are the bands themselves!

I missed Mew, only arriving five minutes before Jane’s Addiction were due to start, which is a shame as I’ve heard good things about Mew. Our seats were on the left of the stage, at a rather vertiginous height (Row L, 924-925 if I remember correctly). We bought some garlic parmesan chips (overpriced but awesome!) and settled down to wait for the show to begin.

Jane’s Addiction left a lot to be desired. While I knew of them, I hadn’t heard many of their songs before, and so tried keeping an open mind, but found their performance at best amusing. Their sound was very dated, but the real disappointment for me was the vocalist Perry Farrell, whose singing was nasal and whiny. His one saving grace was his outfit: a pair of the most amazing sparkly trousers. Everything about his performance seemed practised, a planned routine of dance movements and song introductions. It couldn’t be over soon enough, which is a shame considering how famous they are.

After such fuss of being showmen, of making a scene, I expected NIN to make a suitably dramatic entrance. Cue Trent Reznor walking on stage cool as a cucumber and starting to sing. It quickly became clear that Trent Reznor was only there to make good music and not to flaunt around on stage. He was almost humble in presence, thanking the audience repeatedly for their support, so down-to-earth I wanted to take him home or throw my knickers at him or both.

The energy of their performance is mind-blowing, with Trent Reznor putting his heart and soul into it, hurling keyboard stacks off-stage repeatedly, throwing his guitars back-stage twice, jumping around and dancing with a passion that makes Perry Farrell’s dancing look even more effeminate and contrived in contrast.

NIN kicked things off with a number of their older tracks, to which the audience sang along faithfully, shaking their fists in time. By this point the anxiety and excitement is almost killing you. So it comes as a pleasant surprise when Trent Reznor sits down and plays La Mer, eerily relaxing after so much rocking out.

Then, just when you didn’t think you could be surprised any more, Trent Reznor looks up and announces, “Gary Numan, everyone!” The collaboration between the two of them had everybody in the audience frothing at the mouth as they played first Metal and then Cars.

From there the show winds down, until, after a heart-breaking rendition of Hurt, the lights cut and it’s all over. Too soon, I think. I wait for NIN to come back on stage for an encore (perhaps to make my dream come true and play Closer!) but it is truly and sadly the end.

We wander through teeming crowds to the tube station, dazed and confused and exhilarated.

EDIT: I found the full setlist at The Plumment Onion‘s blog. Here it is:
Now I’m Nothing/Terrible Lie
March Of The Pigs
The Becoming
I’m Afraid Of Americans
Gave Up
La Mer
The Fragile
Non Entity
The Big Comedown
The Downward Spiral
Down In It
Metal (w/ Gary Numan)
Cars (w/ Gary Numan)
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole


About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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