Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014

Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014Nine Inch Nails @ Birmingham LG Arena – 18th May 2014


Tonight is the first date of Nine Inch Nails‘ UK tour, which takes in some of the biggest venues the band has headlined in this country so far. And it’s a show some of us never thought we’d even see! Only a few years ago, Trent Reznor announced an indefinite hiatus and many feared the end of one of the most influential alternative rocks bands of our generation. Trent hardly took it easy during that time though, recording new music with his wife as How To Destroy Angels, composing soundtracks and consequently winning an Oscar, and then, quite out of the blue, Nine Inch Nails announced they were recording new music and planning a tour. And that tour finally hits the UK tonight at the LG Arena.

Sadly, the arena is only around 2/3 full tonight; a shame as it means not enough people get to witness what is possibly the most spectacular performance I’ve ever seen in this venue.


It’s 9pm when the lights in the arena drop and a shadowy figure makes his way to a keyboard centre stage as the pulsating beats of Me, I’m Not begin to fill the huge room. The lighting stays minimal and moody and Reznor is soon joined by his band mates as the layers of music build. It’s a deliberatly low-key yet dramatic intro which is followed by the more uptempo techno beat of Copy Of A. The lights begin to get more lively as the music builds and a huge backdrop of screens starts to show visuals perfectly matching the mood of the music. Indeed, one of the key elements of tonight’s show is the marriage of music and visuals. Throughout the 100 minute set the video screen visuals, as well as the stage lighting, is absolutely spectacular, taking the show beyond the realms of a rock concert to create a living, breathing work of art, soundtracked by the music of Nine Inch Nails.


The Beginning Of The End sees guitars added into the mix before the frantic all-out assault of March Of the Pigs from the classic Downward Spiral album which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Piggy, from the same album, follows with Trent being lit by a hand-held spot light which only enhances the twisted darkness of the lyrics. Reznor grips the mic stand tightly and stares out into the crowd as he snarls the words, “Nothing can stop me now cause I don’t care anymore.” He obviously cares a lot about his art though. The thought and pre-planning that must have gone into the show has to be admired. It’s very clear that this has not been just thrown together. Everything flows brilliantly, building the mood and taking the crowd on a real journey through music and visuals.


Sanctified makes a welcome appearance while crowd favourite Closer takes things up a notch before Reznor suggest “How about something noisy?” as the distorted beats of The Warning lead us into a more electronic section of the performance. New song, Disappointed, is one of the night’s surprise highlights, the repetitive rhythms and fuzzing guitar tones making a superb soundtrack to some of the cleverest graphics flashing across the screens in perfect symmetry with the sound. By this time, the crowd is totally won over, realising they’re witnessing something quite special and unique.


Come Back Haunted has all the trademarks of a NIИ alt-rock classic, whilst The Day the World Went Away is all doom-laden riffs which fill the air before the sinister Eraser eases us towards the magnificent Wish. The front section of the crowd becomes a seething mass of jumping bodies and the occasional crowd surfer. Burn follows, to the delight of the hardcore fans, and things don’t let up as The Hand That Feeds and the huge Head Like A Hole keep the riffs coming. It’s a magnificent finale which can only really be followed by Nine Inch Nails’ true classic…. Hurt.


Hurt has now taken on a life of its own, partly thanks to a beautiful interpretation by Johnny Cash, but the original remains, in my eyes, the best, and tonight it sounds as immense as ever. Again the song is enhanced by some captivating, and occasionally shocking, film footage, Reznor’s voice sounding as good as it ever has as the song reaches its climax…. “If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself.. I would find a way.”


Over their quarter of a century making music, Nine Inch Nails have always been on the cutting edge when it comes to combing music, technology and art. Trent Reznor has pushed modern music into unchartered territories and tonight, in Birmingham, he proves yet again that he can surprise, entertain and push things forward. I’ve never seen a show like it before. Truly spectacular.


Me, I’m Not
Copy of A
The Beginning of the End
March of the Pigs
Gave Up
The Warning
Came Back Haunted
The Great Destroyer
The Day the World Went Away
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole

Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

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