When I first saw the poster for this tour it was overwhelming to see such a notable band as Nine Inch Nails play little ol’ Cardiff, a city which has mixed experiences when it comes to shows in the arena. Older bands ticket sales sour whilst the bands aimed at younger teens almost always sell out.
But here we are in 2014 and it seems like half the music scene in South Wales is attending tonight. Jokes about goths and the colour range of clothes are thrown about on social network all day. The crowd vary, some are here for the one off experience and others are long time fans eager to get stuck in.
As the arena eventually fills up and the house lights darken the place roars. Prompt and precise the band emerge on stage and start a bumper set with Copy Of A from latest release Hesitation Marks. With such a huge back catalogue they keep the setlist well balanced and we’re treated to such classics as Something I Can Never Have, Reptile and Social Network cover Hand Covers Bruise where the lights glimmer in an archway of blue above the stage, the arena stood silent and hairs stood up on end. Remarkable.
Trent has a presence on stage that feels intense and dominant as he stares fiercely into the crowd, swaying with the microphone before checking on band mates. The line up is strong with guitarist Robin Finck and his array of faces, drummer Rubin, who spends half the night on other instruments and Alessandro swiftly on various keys and pads.
The only talk that happens is during some tech faults as Trent asks the crowd if he can test something as he’s got sweat on some shit that’s blown up. He’s brief but small talk isn’t needed here tonight.It feels fluid – the band, the explosive lights and setlist is admirable and prompt top marks from people around. During the second half a screen the width of the stage hangs behind the band broadcasting various glitches, noise and haunting videos, some of which are in real time to the band – as guitarist Finck moves so do the ripples behind him. It’s impressive and adds a new level to live performance. The Great Destroyer gets an extended outro as Alessandro and Trent passionately play with synth pads creating a barrage of noise whilst the screen flashes behind in a technical destructive manner.
Closing with the standard (three H’s) Hand That Feeds, Head Like A Hole and Hurt, the place comes to an overwhelming high as the crowd scream “bow down before the one you serve”, and in a literal fashion wave their arms in the air as if to bow to NIN. The crowd erupts once again as the NIN logo lingers over the arena during the end before we’re treated to encore Hurt.
The only thing that spoils is during Hurt, if you weren’t at the front you were treated to extra drunken outbursts from the crowd along with clapping which had no sense of rhythm. It’s distracting and taints what should of been a truly powerful moment.
But we for one are thankful Nine Inch Nails are back. From goth to boss, a truly exhilarating experience.
Nine Inch NailsCardiff CIA - 21st May 2014
Photographer: Nadine Ballantyne
Site: www.nadineballantyne.com Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/nadineballantyne