And now, finally, we can talk about the concert itself!
I was deeply concerned as the crowd started to gather and the sun set. My limping and hobbling was only getting worse, and I had several more hours to stand on my blistered feet. In addition, my headache wasn't improving, despite the regular Tylenol dosing and eating a million-dollar cheeseburger. The ear-shattering noise of a NIN concert was surely a one-way ticket to Migraine-land. I was never prone to this condition when I was younger, but I am sadly afflicted now, and I was worried that to counter the ecstasy and joy of the meet-and-greet and soundcheck, I would be spending the next few hours in agony until I barfed with an aching head. What I really wanted was a dark room, a cold compress, and silence. For this reason alone, I was not particularly looking forward to Street Sweeper Social Club.
As lead vocalist Boots Reilly is fond of proclaiming, "The Street Sweeper Social Club is more than a band--it's a social club." It's also more than a social club; it is also apparently an analgesic, as I swear my headache completely disappeared by the time they were finished with their half-hour set. I attribute my miracle cure to the fact that I had so much fun watching them. They sound quite a bit like Rage Against the Machine to my ears, except perhaps...less enraged and dancier. Don't get me wrong, Tom Morello is still committed to any number of leftist social causes, and part of the purpose of Street Sweeper Social Club is to bring awareness to these causes, but Boots Reilly (who I SWEAR looks just like the dearly departed Warrick on CSI) won't stop the show in order to rant and preach, a la our friend Zack de la Rocha. Tom Morello still does amazing things with his guitar, and Boots has some pretty sweet moves.
Here they are, performing "100 Little Curses":
Okay, doesn't that just melt your fucking face off? Seriously, it was love at first sight, and I was not at all in the mood for an opening band when they first took the stage. I don't really know the lyrics to this song, but even if it's just as commie pinko as anything RATM made (and mind you, I'm a hemorrhaging-heart liberal), it's just so...fun. Street Sweeper Social Club's album comes out on June 19th, I believe, and I definitely will be getting it and look forward to seeing them again in concert soon.
Now that I look back on it, this last NIN show was kind of a bittersweet blur. Although I strongly doubt that it's the last time I'll ever see Trent Reznor on a stage, I think he's giving himself permission to retire the old chestnuts. (Unless he's hard up at any point and needs a cash infusion with a "reunion" tour) And I'm fine with that. I mean, after eight live shows in a relatively short period of time, even I am like, "Oh God, 'Suck' again?!" I can't even imagine how repetitive it gets for Trent and the band on one tour, let alone all the touring that's been done since 2004-ish. On the other hand, these songs are so close to my heart and have been and continue to be like friends in my times of need, that it's sad to reflect on the fact that this may very well be the last time that I will be so transported to a place of elation and excitement. Because I was seriously blissed out through this entire show. I thought of all the times I've been in some hardcore emotional pain, shouting along with these songs in the car, except in concert it just feels like tremendous happiness and catharsis, and no matter how many times I hear them live or how some idiot goes "WHOO!" at the wrong part or some eight-foot-tall guy blocks my view of the band, these songs will always belong to me in a very deep and personal way. And these songs will belong to everyone else in similar ways, I expect. And it's sad to see Trent put them away in a cardboard box and go on to his new and contented life, but I try to keep in mind that I will still have these songs when I need them, right on my ipod. Trent's like The Electric Grandmother in that way. (And that movie always made me cry, incidentally.) And that's probably the first and last time Trent has ever been compared to The Electric Grandmother.
Here is the setlist, courtesy of "stealth_" at nin.com because my blissed out state prevented me from taking on any secretarial duties:
March of the Pigs
I'm Afraid of Americans
The Way Out is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Day the World Went Away
The Hand that Feeds
Head like a Hole"
A solid, hard-hitting line-up. You'll notice something missing, though. Hmmmm...
NO "PHYSICAL (YOU'RE SO)". I PHYSICALLY asked Trent to play "PHYSICAL" and was in PHYSICAL pain all throughout the show, and I was denied. Bah! And to rub it in, he played it the next night! Whatevs, Old Man Reznor, I prefer the l'orangerie stank version anyway. So there.
One thing did make up for this minor disappointment, however. (And I wasn't REALLY expecting him to take requests, after all). That was this song:
What a pleasant surprise! I've heard David Bowie play this live in the past, but not Trent. You'll notice at the beginning of the clip, Trent was bitching about the weather because he seems to be under the impression that May 29 = Summer in Chicago. No, sir. May 29 = Not As Likely To Snow. Summer doesn't begin until somewhere around June 30th or so.
A new song for me was a cover of Gary Numan's "Metal":
I'm not the big Gary Numan expert, so I don't have a lot of analysis to provide, but watching this video is causing me to dance at my desk here at work. Ahem.
The Downward Spiral was well-represented in this show. How awesome is it to hear "Heresy" again?
Also, they have a new and improved intro to "Mr. Self Destruct" these days:
Didn't we just have an Anonymous bitching that he/she heard from someone else that the show wasn't good? This person called Trent Reznor a "donkey," so I can only presume that it's Gordon Ramsey. Well, I can inform you, and I hope that you can tell from the clips above, that all of the old passion was there, even though Trent's voice did sound kind of raggedy. This could just be a natural result of screaming his head off every night while on tour for the better part of five years, or maybe he was catching Robin's illness. But at no point did I feel like he was phoning it in. Jesus, there's no pleasing some people.
We also heard some "Fragile" favorites, including, surprisingly "The Fragile." I know it's probably like the fangirl anthem because it's as close to a love song as classic NIN gets, but I've always loved it and was happy to finally hear it live. Some good jamming goes on during "The Day The World Went Away." (Made me feel like I was watching the Terminator: Salvation trailer):
As usual, Trent wasn't terribly chatty during the show, but we did get this speech from him:
Oh hey, Trent! I noticed that you screwed up the lyrics to "Terrible Lie," and now I'm BLOGGING about it. Mwa ha ha ha ha!
So yeah, I think about wraps it up, unless Iris or Ro can think of anything to add. I'm very grateful to Trent for the music, the shows, the entire Maise experience. It's led me to meet some very cool people and go to very cool places. I hope he enjoys his break, has fun with his dogs and fiancee, rests his voice, and gives us something new to talk about very soon.
But of course, we'll carry on here at Places Parallel. There's other music out there to discuss, even if it's not nearly as fun as talking about NIN. We've got Lollapalooza coming up this summer. And I'm sure something or other Trent says on Twitter will bring the Anonymi out of the woodwork. So never fear, friends! It's not the end of the road for US!
(oh, and always, more pictures to be found here.)