On a hot and sticky night like last night, the Manchester Apollo is not among the list of places that I would rather normally be. But hey, this is different. I’ve waited too long, been jinxed too many times.
Nine Inch Nails
10 July 2005
First up anyway, while we were waiting, was support act Saul Williams, who I thought was great, and appeared to win over much of the crowd too. Kinda cerebral hip-hop, his background as a poet showing through with some very wordy rapping! His comments on fighting poverty and terrorism (and indeed his apologies for American foreign policy) won’t have hurt, either…
A bit of a wait, and (bang on time, incredibly) Nine Inch Nails appear through the darkness on the spot of 2100, to the rasping riffs of Pinion. I turn to my friend and suggest that it would be cool (but unlikely) for Wish to follow that. So imagine our surprise when it does… The gifts just keep coming, too – with a slinky Sin to follow that, and then a quick breather with The Line Begins To Blur (which like much of the new album, sounds better live than on CD). The break doesn’t last long, as March Of The Pigs rips through the calm, seemingly played faster than ever.
A quick note for the band – the whole setup looks great, with everything in black or shiny metal, with whole arrays of vertical LED strips giving swathes of colour behind. And then there is Aaron North (ex of The Icarus Line, a band that if you have never heard, you need to change that), who is nuts. Leaping and screaming all over the stage, at one point playing his guitar while hanging over his monitor.
First cigarette lighter moment of the night next, with a surprise airing of Something I Can Never Have, with much of the crowd joining Trent in singing every word, while bathed in a gorgeous purple light. Again, the calm is broken quickly by racing through The Hand That Feeds and a monstrous Terrible Lie. Next up is Burn, which somehow doesn’t sound as good as it should. The fact that only about half the crowd appear to recognise it is the most amazing thing…
One of the big crowd-pleasers is next, with the sleazy beats of Closer – the track has obviously been freshened up for this years live shows, and now has a wonderful use of The Only Time in the breakdown near the end – which fits so well it sounds that it should have been there in the first place! A not-exactly-obvious track from the new album is next (Home) that is probably one of the weakest new tracks of all. Best time of all to go get a drink, I’d say. Things are swiftly redeemed, though, with the peaceful piano strains of The Frail leading into the suffocating darkness of The Wretched, followed by one of the night’s big surprises, Reptile (which sounded incredible). Back to the new album for Love Is Not Enough (again sounding far better live), then for the second surprise, in Trent’s old Pigface track Suck, which like much of the older tracks was seething with such malice it took us right back to our teenage years…
Odd choice of No, You Don’t next (I could have picked any number of better tracks from the The Fragile), although Gave Up was most welcome as it sped by in a blur of beats. The end of the main set proper was predictable enough, with Trent on his lonesome (only a keyboard for company) for a rousing Hurt – a track that has never lost it’s power after all these years, and made all the more spine-chilling by hearing the entire venue singing every single word.
Which is always nice. Good to see no break or teasing for an encore, they just got straight on with it. So onto the final lap, a rampaging You Know What You Are (still, in my view at least, the best track on the new album by far), Starfuckers, Inc. (which is still nowhere near as good as everyone seems to think) and a final sing-a-long through Head Like A Hole. Guitars are thrown, the lights go up, and that is it.
Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait as long next time.