Live Review Nine Inch Nails, Phones4U Arena, Manchester 25th May 2014

Trent Reznor and cohorts’ massive live show impresses in the North West.

There comes a moment when you can feel the machine-paced pulsing of your heart, a sensation of pure muscularity, a heightened awareness of existence, of just being there in the jaws of the most ferocious beast in music.

That’s Nine Inch Nails.

It’s not just a feat in raw power either, it’s immaculately planned, impeccably conceived and executed with flair and a decisiveness that few other live acts manage. In preparing for the latest tour the band saw the departure of members that didn’t relish the unbelievable pace and scale, with Trent Reznor as a modern, unforgiving Darwin ensuring only the fittest survive.

Once the simmering promise of ‘Copy of A’ exploded into frantic staple ‘1,000,000’ there is no going back. A tornado of lights and sound, as the sky breaks into a dizzying display of overhead flashes. When in full flow not all the armies of the world could stop Nine Inch Nails, the fearsome grind of ‘Letting You’ and ‘March Of The Pigs’ seem ready to crack the ground. The setlist is intelligently arranged, loosely falling into chapters of eras, beginning with the late 2000s hysteria and suspicion and morphing into a 90s trash. Classics like ‘Closer’ sit seamlessly with the likes of ‘Survivalism’ as each part of Nine Inch Nails’ history is united by their pure ferocity. Robin Finck, Alessandro Cortini and Ilan Rubin bring unflinching consistency, each taking their moments in the spotlight with aplomb and Reznor retaining all the claims of his cult-like presence and super-human stamina.

Nine Inch Nails are quite possibly the best live band on the planet.

His reputation as a technological innovator is going unchallenged too, as a third of the way through the set the band employ a huge stage-sized video curtain to create a truly one of a kind effect. A nice idea becomes a masterpiece as the glitchy electronica of ‘The Great Destroyer’ is accompanied by a mesmerising video of heavily distorted images of modern dysfunction – with CCTV, a Windows blue screen and Tony Blair gaining the most air time. Approaching a breathless, bruised close the band fall into the legendary gear that sees them tear through all of ‘Wish’, ‘The Hand That Feeds’ and ‘Head Like A Hole’ without a hint of fatigue.

The inevitable end comes with perhaps Nine Inch Nails’ most revered song, ‘Hurt’ making for an incredible, if uncomfortable, experience with its repeated imagery of executions, bombs and rotting food. Then it was over, acknowledging the audience humbly Reznor leaves the stage and after nearly two hours the tanks roll out of town.

There’s fully grown adults out there who’ve been born and matured all in a time when Nine Inch Nails have been touted as one of the world’s great live acts and on this performance there could be another generation yet. No sign of slowing, no sign of tiring and no sign of repetition – Nine Inch Nails are quite possibly the best live band on the planet.

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