Live Review: Nine Inch Nails – O2 Academy, Glasgow 15.06.2022

Raymond Thompson

Sold Out within minutes of tickets coming on line, they were not cheap, but how do you put a price on a show. How do we value our entertainment? Some things need to be done at any cost and the packed venue in Glasgow was full of expectant fans demanding to extract every ounce of enjoyment for their hard-earned cash. Nine Inch Nails delivered, and some. The industrial alt-rockers had not graced a Glasgow stage for over 8 years and the crowd gave their traditional chant of “here we, here we, here we fucking go” as they tried to bait Reznor into coming on stage. 

Stage time had come and gone, and the expectancy was growing as the cosmetic smoke filled the stage. The atmosphere was electric and the chanting got louder and louder before the inevitable roar as Rezner breezed through the fog. 

The set opened ironically with “The Beginning of the End”, Ilan Rubin’s hard hitting drums were two bars in before Reznor’s voice cut through the atmosphere. Robin Frink’s crushing guitar followed quickly then the rest of the band came crashing in. The opening sonic salvo ramped up with a weaponised version of “Wish”. The stark back drop was blasted by a relentless barrage of strobes during the entire song. It was blinding at times but ultimately the visual violence was essential. It didn’t stop there, Frinks guitar cut like a buzz saw through “Discipline” as the song got a rare live outing. The crowd chants returned and had Trent puzzled what was being shouted, he was enlightened at the encore. There was a live debut of the upbeat “Everything” and “The Downward Spiral” set regulars “March of the Pigs” and “Piggy” went down a storm. The chilled vibe of the latter was a welcomed respite from the aural onslaught. The mosh pit swayed and arms raised as they sang along. The great thing about a NIN concert is you don’t have to be a purist to enjoy it. Just trust in Trent that what he gives you is what you want. High on the wants list for me was “Copy of A” and the entire experience was sublime. The simple backdrop was illuminated with revolving shadows of Reznor and his band. Very slick and the hypnotic beat of the song had the same mesmeric effect as the projected profiles. “The Frail” and “The Wretched” from 1999’s “The Fragile” album saw Rezner sit in isolation at his keyboard for the first of the two songs. As “The Wretched” built the intensity and rage in Rezners voice was evident. He was immersed in his performance and Frink’s guitar playing was verging on manic. Reznor’s partner in crime and full time member Atticus Ross kept everything planted as well as touring members Alessandro Cortini and Ilan Rubin. The faithful rendition of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” was almost expected as the iconic cover is a set regular, but the inclusion of “Down in It” was a surprise. The early “Beastie Boys’ styled rap tune has been played live in over a decade. The main set came to an end with two of the band’s biggest hits. “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole”. The bittersweet inevitability that the gig was coming to an end sparked the crowd into full gear as they bounced along to the band’s mission statement songs.

Trent Reznor returned to the stage and gave the crowd a heart felt thank you as he let them know he had gone through a tough time recently but it had thankfully resolved itself. He was grateful that his audience had acknowledged the return of live music post lockdown and given him the platform to perform. He was curious what the Glaswegian crowd had been chanting at the start of the gig and as they chanted it to him, his puzzled look turned to relief as his microphone tech let him know it was “here we fucking go”. Rezner thought, for some bizarre reason the crowd were launching into a tirade and calling him something much worse!

After some brutal intensity throughout the main set, the encore had an entirely different feel as the drum driven “Home” lead into a dark version of “Even Deeper”. The tempo dropped further with the downbeat “And All That Could Have Been” before the much anticipated closing song famously covered by Johnny Cash. The haunting classic version of “Hurt” had the crowd hypnotised as Frink’s acoustic guitar hung in the ether. It is an odd ending to such an invigorating evening but almost heals the damage to the senses.

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