Last Night: Nine Inch Nails, Health at the Fonda

Last Night: Nine Inch Nails, Health, at the Music Box at the Fonda, Los Angeles; September 8, 2009.

Better Than: The two previous Los Angeles “Wave Goodbye” shows at the Hollywood Palladium and the Echoplex, if reports are to be believed.

Amount of People Fitting the ClichNd Nine Inch Nails Fan “Look”: Honestly, not very many. I saw a couple girls that overdid it with the eyeliner, but that's about it. Mostly just normal-looking dudes. What a bummer.

I wasn't planning on doing a formal “review” of this show: it wasn't in Orange County, and I paid my $65 for a ticket and waited in line, just like all the other fans. (Albeit certainly less slavishly devoted. My loss.) But I can't help but say something about it.

My buddy Andrew Youssef commented “This show is going down in NIN history.” He'd know a lot better than me. I'm a Nine Inch Nails fan, but saying that bears a great burden of responsibility–Nine Inch Nails fans are a notoriously devoted lot, and I would be a poseur supreme to try and match Trent Reznor-love with that group. I've only seen them once before, at a 2005 show at the Marquee Theater in Tempe, a venue even smaller than the Fonda, when they were doing theater shows right after the release of With Teeth.

Still, even a relative outsider to NIN culture could realize that we were witnessing something special. Sure, you would expect “special” from what was purported to be the second-to-last Nine Inch Nails show–ever!–but does anyone truly believe that? Music fans know by now not to fall for that kind of talk. In 2003, I went to the “last Sex Pistols show ever.” Youssef was telling me about how he went to the “last Ozzy Osbourne show ever.” In like, 1996.

But if it truly does turn out to be the penultimate NIN show, hardcore fans are interested fakers alike were both satisfied by last night's performance. We know the usual lines: “Going on a high note.” “Leaving it all on the stage.” Etc., etc. etc. Believe it all. Trent Reznor and his current crew went for about two hours and 45 minutes, playing 31 songs, and being joined by guest musicians like Gary Numan and Greg Puciato, lead vocalist (“singer” doesn't sound quite right) of Dillinger Escape Plan. Puciato joined NIN for a blistering version of “Wish,” Numan did several of his own songs, including the iconic “Cars” (which was cool and all, though there was a little bit of “let's get back to the Nine Inch Nails songs, no?”).

Hits? Yep, opened with “Head Like A Hole,” segued into “Terrible Lie” (which fooled a lot of people into thinking they were doing Pretty Hate Machine in order–nope!), “March of the Pigs,” “I'm Afraid of Americans,” and ending with “Hurt.” Deeper cuts? Sure, how about instrumental “Just Like You Imagined” or a couple Joy Division covers? Reznor, stereotypically seen as grumpy and moody based on his lyrics (if you saw his Twitter freakouts, it's not an entirely invalid description) was actually kind of charming, especially when apologizing for a house lights goof that ruined the “surprise” of their first encore.

There's only one Nine Inch Nails show, tomorrow at the Wiltern. If there's anyway you can make it, do it. Sure it's sold out. Don't let that stop you! Though it is just about impossible to get in without a ticket, given how much on lockdown the shows are: names are printed on the ticket, and you have to show ID and be let in with your guest to avoid scalping. The best advice is to find someone whose friend canceled on them that day. Good luck in swinging that!

Oh, Health opened. They were pretty cool, in a certainly unenviable position.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: The sweatiness of the show didn't bug me. From Arizona, y'know.

Random Detail: In Andrew Youssef's review of the Echoplex show, he noted how quiet the crowd was during “Hurt.” They were kind of loud and obnoxious during it at this show.

By the Way: You can read my goofy review of that 2005 show here.

Setlist can be found here.

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