Heard the one about the busload of lawyers that drove off a cliff? It's a Good News, Bad News/Mixed Emotions story. The good news is that the driver escaped uninjured. The bad news is that the bus was only half full. Another example. You're at home watching your team in a major cup final. You're mid-climax. You look up and see your team concede the only goal of the game in the dying seconds of extra time. Or, you're on the way to the Airport Arena for Nine Inch Nail's HK debut, and one mega motherhumper of a migraine kicks in on the MTR. Fun eh?
By the time I disembark, walking is causing auditory pain. The colours are bad rave day-glo. The curry I had earlier is rumbling in discontent. An outbreak of Delhi Belly seems imminent. I recognise a few faces in the crowd. Manek's here, with his posse, to shoot some pix. Old mate Martine (who I told about the show some weeks earlier) has made it. Other Lamma acquaintances are dotted around, (hi, Tamara). I get a bottle of water. The last thing I need is a $50 cup of beer-flavoured froth (which you can't even take inside the hall with you). The opening act Love Song are making one hellacious racket. I've seen them a few times and they are worth listening to, but tonight it sounds to me like murky heavy-metal surf mixed with seismic rubble-crushers. They're just thanking NIN for the privilege of being the opening act as I stumble inside the darkened hall.
Tickets for this show are one price - $580 - which means everyone can stand/sit where they like. There's a big crowd at the front of the stage. The sound desk is about 50 feet away. I'm sitting extreme-right back where the noise is tolerable and there's some light should I try to write anything. A piano-driven version of Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love" is playing. It ends, Nine Inch Nails amble on stage. A big mesh grid runs half the width of the stage. It's above and behind Trent's keyboards. A second keyboard stack is to his left, the drum riser is to the right and the guitars are free to ramble on. The lighting is stunning. Shifting blue and orange flickers cut through the steady smoke, blurring and highlighting the on-stage action. "God is dead and no one cares", sings Trent. (least of all, me, thinks Nick) Most of the new LP "Year Zero" is played over the following 45 minutes or so. The light show looks like 3 milky tubular beakers in which neon-blue shapes distort and fizzle. Sort of like genies in a bottle cross-bred with some of Dr. Moreau's weirder animal mutations or the cyber-Gremlin. As for the music, normally I'm a big fan of space-dub-electro-goth noise and NIN are putting on a show that make Muse sound like weedy folkies and I'm sorry, I've got to exorcise this curry and have a technicolour yawn...
...it's 15 minutes later and I am reborn! As any veteran acid head will tell you, the coming-on-rush can be too intense at times while the brain readjusts and then...Welcome Through The Star Gate! That's how I feel now. Time to stroll around. I bump into Dave and Paul (ex-n-bass-n-drums of The Academy, now doing some far-out d-n-b-fx weird shit under the original name of DP). Paul raves about the drummer (whose name is Josh?) The guitarist is from a band called A Perfect Circle. He seems the youngest member of this entourage. The bass player is the legendary Twiggy Ramirez, formerly with Marilyn Manson. I bet he's got another name for getting through passport control/customs. I'm not sure who the second keyboard player is. Sorry. Anyway, Trent is saying "...would have come here, like, 300 years ago if we knew how cool you people were. This is a song by Joy Division about killing myself". Can't remember the title, but the chorus repeats "...they keep calling me" The song segues into "Bite the hand that feeds you" and the electronic backing storm howls and wails and pulsates in atonal, metronomic fury. Trent, if you get the chance (and ever read this) check out a very cool Japanese collective called Joujouka. They are fucking awesome.
The End Is Nigh! NIN rampage through one of their earliest hits "Head Like A Hole" (with added possible venom towards The (Professional) Widow Cobain) and depart the stage. Trent is left alone, playinga soft keyboard melody. Yellow stars are cascading down the mesh behind him and dripping into oblivion. The last song he plays is "Hurt" and leads nicely into another one of those mixed emotions. How does he feel playing it when he knows in his secret heart that this song can never be his again? The definitive version of "Hurt" was recorded by the late Johnny Cash with Rick Rubin, and although Trent gave his blessing and appreciation, it's not really his song anymore. Mind you, he shouldn't feel too bad. The Man In Black did the same trick with U2's "One" as well! Anyway, gotta go. Missing you already NIN. Please come back again real soon won't you?
Review By Nick L.