Last night, I enjoyed my birthday present from Andrew - tickets to see Nine Inch Nails in concert at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. They are not Andrew's cup of tea, but he kindly agreed to come along. We had excellent seats in an area of the venue I'd not previously been in - the upper balcony directly in line with the stage, so could see beautifully.
We arrived just as the support band were finishing, and felt that lovely frisson of excitement when you are eagerly anticipating an event. Happily, we were not disappointed, and I had one of the best evenings at a gig I can remember for ages.
The thing that has to be mentioned is that the lighting was one of the best and most inventive I've ever seen, especially considering the set was rigged in a single day. Every song brought the most dazzling and awesome effects, with amazing use of colour, and a really funky screen that fascinated Andrew, that was both opaque and transparent by turns, which had projected images on it. Andrew said at the end of the gig, that for the lighting alone the evening had been worth going to.
Musically, it was also amazing. Kicking off with a song from "Hesitation Marks" they played a treasure chest of songs from their back catalogue along with stuff from the latest album. I loved their live version of "Came back Haunted" - looser and more playful than the CD version. It's hard to pick highlights from such a great night, but I particularly enjoyed listening to two of my favourite tracks back to back, "Sanctified" and "Closer" - both magnificent descriptions of sexual obsession, and both among my all time favourite songs.
A pretty near perfect evening finished with their encore and they played "Hurt" - I really could not have asked for more. I originally encountered the song as sung by Johnny Cash, and I still think his version, along with the amazing video, stands as the most eloquent and beautiful reflection on mortality. However, the song can also be seen as a commentary on other sorts of pain and despair, whether the loneliness of bereavement or the isolation of depression, or even the pains of addiction. Hearing Trent Reznor sing it will be one of my special memories.
The only negatives I can possibly mention are not related to the band - it's more that we both loathe the Arena as a venue. It has terrible accoustics and I am never happy with the sound quality when we hear groups there.
One other observation - as we were leaving, I was astonished to see that some idiot had taken a child with them (aged about 8/9). I've grudgingly learned to accept children at festivals and some concerts. At Crowded House, for instance, it makes sense. The band look like geography teachers, and the songs are happy, family friendly singalongs. NIN, with songs about angst, addiction, lots of sex, gloriously loud (as in belly-jiggling, ear-ringing loud) and a crowd gleefully singing along to lyrics like "You let me penetrate you, you let me violate you, I want to fuck you like an animal" ensure it is simply NOT a place that is appropriate for children. Judgy pants hoiked, we then made our way home. Fortunately, there's a large car park very near the venue and we were on our way home in minutes, and were greeted ecstatically by four very happy woofs on our return.
Poor Andrew had to get up very early this morning to travel to St. Albans but I've enjoyed the day, with a head full of wonderful images and sounds from last night. One of the other reasons I like the band is that Trent Reznor also has rescue greyhounds and I understand he works to support adoption programmes in the USA where he is based. On our walk this morning, I discussed this with Callie and Sara and they were firmly of the view that he needs to write a really good song about squirrel obsessions but were very pleased that the family income was being spent on a fellow greyhound lover.