Wednesday’s Nine Inch Nails concert at the Palladium in Hollywood was much more than a searing victory lap run-through of The Downward Spiral, the band’s ferocious third album. In short, there’s very good reason why the forums are ablaze with “best ever” praise and declarations: the show was amazing.
Due to an unfortunate complication involving an ill-fated love triangle between Skwerl, the FBI and Axl Rose, the rightful owner of the tickets couldn’t make it to the show. Rather than make a killing scalping the ticket, Antiquiet’s resident rock saint set up a pay-it-forward kind of contest which Micah, a huge NIN fan, won. It was his quick thinking that got us in the door after a bad bout of identity mixups, so he certainly earned his ticket that night.
The main floor area reached capacity and was blocked off early on, but it was nothing a little well-timed balcony hopping couldn’t fix. By the fifth song (Closer), we’d both made our pit jumps and were slowly beginning to believe that we were seeing Nine Inch Nails perform the entire Downward Spiral album, which as any NIN fan can imagine is an incredible thing to witness – but what set this show apart was the fact that the performance was, to these eyes and ears, completely flawless. It was evident that the band was on a mission; there was a revitalized passion for the precise execution of the songs that I haven’t seen in the nearly two dozen Nails shows I’ve been to over the years. They’re going out, and they’re going out at full-throttle, no matter how big the wall may be in the road ahead.
Advance news that Reznor wasn’t feeling well became apparent when his voice finally blew out towards the end of an apocalyptic rendition of "Terrible Lie," but he’d made it through all of Spiral while pushing himself to the very vocal limit, for which the audience was more than forgiving. Carrying on after a throat break with a beautifully creeping "Lights In The Sky," the heavy screaming in closer "Head Like A Hole" was handled readily by virtuosic guitarist Robin Finck (who may or may not have singlehandedly derailed the Guns N’ Roses train in the past year when he jumped ship to return to the NIN fold).
Ilan Rubin was a beat monster, segueing between songs like a stomping giant and throwing fills like he was getting paid per beat. Following Trent’s announcement before "Burn" that he was sick and his voice was shot, the band seemed to push themselves even further – it was as if a collective muscle had tightened as they powered through "Suck" and a frantic version of "Burn". Justin Meldal-Johnsen was in a world all his own, at once blissfully immersed in the sound and pushing the low end to deafening depths.
After "Suck," Reznor briefly talked about making his first record and how he wanted it to sound, which led to the introduction of pop icon Gary Numan, who joined the band for two of his songs: "Metal" and "Cars," both of which were met with wild enthusiasm from the crowd, the majority of whom weren’t born yet when the songs were first released. Regardless, Numan reveled in the moment and delivered the goods ("Cars" was surreal and spectacularly fun), and respect was duly offered.
After an absolutely searing "Head Like A Hole," the stage went dark, the lights went up and exit music promptly began. It was an abrupt, encore-free ending to a screaming jet ride of a show, and while the sudden ending may not have been the band’s original intention Wednesday night, nothing at all was lacking.
I’m never going to hear the songs off The Downward Spiral the same way again. It was just that kind of show.
Photo by JMaloney
Special thanks to Skwerl, without whom this night would not have happened.