We pat ourselves on the back as we arrive at the MEN just six minutes late of the super-early 6:45 start time. The brilliant Mew are half way through their second track, ‘Introducing Palace Players’, a new number from their upcoming album No More Stories/Are Told Today/I’m Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I’m Tired/Let’s Wash Away. Yep, that’s genuinely the album’s title.
Lord knows I’ve sat through some dreadful support acts in my time, often wondering why a certain band was picked for a show and I’m sure a good percentage of this crowd are thinking the exact same thing but this time, I’m not one of them. The great Danes psychically pick four tracks in a row which are amongst my five favourite tracks by the band, including the special ‘Special’ and ‘Am I Wry? No’. I have a face of glee.
Jane’s Addiction take to the stage after a short video on the big screen which for a band of such rock god levels, is predictably filled with boobies. Visually, the band conform beautifully to rock stereotypes. Lead singer Perry Farrell has offset his pirate tailor waistcoat and cravat combo with a pair of split three quarter length track suit bottoms. Guitarist Dave Navarro squats in that axe king kinda way, stretching his leather trousers and helping his chiselled six pack glisten in the stage lights. Bassist Eric Avery is so obviously a bass player, inconspicuous in a plain black t-shirt and beige slacks. It’s an old cliché but these people were born to take these roles in this band.
There’s nothing stereotyped about Jane’s Addiction’s sound though. This is genuinely unique music, imitated by many but copied from no-one and it’s great to see a band with such a tumultuous history of break ups, reformations, re-break ups and re-reformations having such a good time and sounding quite fantastic with it. Stephen Perkins’ drums drive the band along with Avery’s sumptuous bass but as always with JA, it’s Farrell and Navarro who steal the show. The up-until-recently Mr Carmen Electra is stupendous at times; never once descending into clichéd lead guitar noodling. Navarro isn’t showing off, he just is this good.
Nine Inch Nails have a double helping of tough act to follow. Are they successful? Yes….and no.
Things start extremely positively. A stripped down NIN on a fairly basic stage (for a headlining, farewell stadium gig anyway) rip through the first five tracks, a tour de force of early material from The Fragile, Pretty Hate Machine and a trio of tracks including ‘Piggy’ from The Downward Spiral.
An odd choice to play two covers in three songs (Gary Numan’s ‘Metal’ and Bowies ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’) add to a middle section that slumps noticeably after an impressive beginning. That’s not to say that the mid section is devoid of quality, I just can’t shake the feeling that there should be something more here. This is, after all, very possibly Reznor’s final EVER UK tour and I was expecting him to afford the event a bit more reverence. Perhaps this was a conscious decision to go out low key with a bit of style and grace but that sorta feels at odds with what NIN do. I expected more fireworks. Another decision which doesn’t sit too well in my ears but will probably not concern most of tonight’s crowd, is a startling lack of recent songs. Out of the 21 song setlist, just two are from Reznor’s last four albums. A disappointing decision which is compounded further by the huge audience reaction to Year Zero‘s ‘Survivalism’ and a similar reaction to With Teeth‘s ‘Bite the Hand That Feeds’. A few more spatterings of the more recent, more direct output would have given the set a touch more life and variety.
Having said all of that, there are few bands around now and even over the last 20 years who kick out a sound like this. Precise, crunching, full of menace and atmosphere, when Reznor and his band , whoever they may be, get going, few can match the quality of the output.
If this is indeed goodbye from Nine Inch Nails, then it was a farewell full of verve and class and niggles aside, I’m glad I was there to help send them off.