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nine inch nails, crystal castles @ key arena, 7/26/08

July 27, 2008

It amazes me that, while I write about NIN on a regular basis, this will be my first official HRC review of them.

It was almost exactly 2 years ago that I saw the last show of the With Teeth tour in Mountain View, though I was lucky enough to see Reznor solo at Bridge School a few months later. The anticipation has been mounting for months…maybe years.

While most of the With Teeth tour saw us Spiral fans get early tickets, special entrances, and for some lucky ones, (not me) soundchecks and meet and greets, this tour is through a new system- free for all on nin.com. I’m not complaining- I was lucky enough to get presale tickets to all 3 of the shows that I’m attending. But, the true meaning of the presale and its perks was to remain a mystery, as we were tantalized by a line in our ticket confirmation emails- “you will receive a follow up email with instructions about your special entrance for the show”.

Fast forward 2.5 months, and no email. I get on a plane to Seattle, no email. I wake up the day of, no email. Luckily my ETS lurking showed me that an email had been sent, and that we were to be there at 3pm. Still don’t know why I never got one.

Well, this habitual pessimist immediately turns into Ms. Optimism, because I think this surely means we are getting a meet & greet, or a soundcheck, or something. I float around on a cloud all morning, unable to eat my brunch or focus on anything. One of my bucket list items is finally going to come true.

2:55pm: arrive at will call line. There are about 25 people in front of me. 20 minutes or so later, the line starts to move. But, people are just picking up their tickets and walking away. Confusing…yes. Isn’t this presale thing supposed to be a scalper free system? This would allow you to go scalp your extra ticket. Most of the people are walking to get in line for the show, where more than the 25 in front of me are already queued. We wait. 30 minutes later, we are told that we need to show our IDs to get in, and it has to match the ticket. Another 30 minutes, we’re told to move over and form a line. Yet another 30 minutes, we have our tickets checked and our bags searched, and queue somewhere else. It’s now 4:30, and we’re thinking, this might be it. 30 minutes goes by. Now this is the dumbest part- in the wide queue we are told to walk to one side of the barricade to get wristbands. Super disorganized, and no one understands why they didn’t already give them to us when we were searched. Then we sit for hours. I become pissed-mostly just because of my bad luck at never getting to do a M&G, or being able to enjoy a day in Seattle. And, not only is the chick standing behind me the most annoying drunk person I’ve ever heard in my life, “where is my NIN representative!” over and over again, but now am sure I am waiting for nothing. There is a pregnant woman close by that I feel so sorry for- as she had seats and I know she was waiting for that hope of a soundcheck. We are all earning out free copy of The Slip that was a thank you for being a fan, but, most of us probably bought multiple copies of the limited edition set anyway.

It’s 7:00. Doors were supposed to open at 6:30 for the general public. We finally start getting let in. “No running”, they say. “We’ll make you go to the back of the line”. Everyone speed walks faster than you can imagine down to the floor, where everyone is told to grab a spot and sit. They make everyone stay seated, even when the general public gets in. At 10 til 8p, the room darkens and we jump out of our first row floor seat and wrap ourselves around the barricade. Crystal Castles comes out and performs a strange and very short set. The lead singer has perfected the art of fetal position singing. She’s quite active, doing the hipster two step all over the stage, crawling on the floor, on the speakers and in front of the barricade. It was ok. I am so bummed I’m not going to any of the APTBS shows, because they will be awesome.

It’s 8:20p. Not a ton of set up has to occur. In front of me is a red steel guitar, strapped to an O shaped metal piece. At the bottom of it, there is a label with the words Me Octave 1, Destroyer Octave 2, Vessel Octave 1, or something like that. Cool! I can understand that code. There’s also an S shaped metal piece with some electronic doodad on it. Neither are put on stage. I listen to the security talk, and apparently the band was running on rock star time. They didn’t cross the Canadian border until 2p, and didn’t really make it in until 5p. So, this is why we didn’t get any special presale attention.

The last thing to be set up was Reznor’s mic.

Slightly after 9p, the lights dim, and 999,999 starts. The band comes on stage. Robin is right in front of me, and Reznor is unbelievably close to my left. All of my insides are being squished by the hundreds of people vying for my spot for the next 2+ hours.

I don’t care. I haven’t had any food, I haven’t had any drink, and I waited in a line for 5 hours. But I’m here now.

1,000,000 starts. People start flying over the barricade, either by surfing or being rescued. Through the course of the show, I see at least 2 people hauled out unconscious.

If I didn’t know who Robin Finck was, I would have never known it was the same dude I saw at GNR. That guy has unbelievable morphing abilities. He was so amazing to watch…and he makes the best faces, though sometimes I thought he was about to cry and I wanted to give him a hug.

Seriously though, Robin doesn’t seem happy. During Head Down he took hisguitar off and used it to chop down his microphone stand, threw it, and stormed offstage. He quickly came back out, and some people fixed his mic, and he had a new guitar. I love seeing tantrums…it shows he cares, and he’s a perfectionist.

In fact, this is what makes NIN shows great. You know that they are going to try hard every time, and even though the cutting edge tech might not work perfectly, it still super bad ass and doesn’t ever disappoint. Reznor continues to raise the bar, and he’s putting on these shows record label free. Those lights ain’t cheap. Think about it.

Reznor said something that generated laughs during the end of March of the Pigs, but I was too busy floating on cloud 9 to make it out. Somewhere around this point in the setlist, Reznor threw his mic stand extraordinarily close to Alessandro. Seriously, he either practiced that or they both got very lucky.

Security was totally cool about letting us use cameras. We got quite a bit of video, below. I saw Rob Sheridan walk by towards the end, but he didn’t appear to be doing much picture taking.

Reznor seemed in rare form. A red shirt and shiny black shoes- it seemed like a new look. But it was not business causal night at all, in fact, I thought he seemed more playful and less pure intensity than normal. He did an interesting squat/mic stand stroke during March of the Pigs, very stripper-esque. It made me blush. He laid on the floor at the end of one song. He came really really close to doing the mic lick during Closer, and I about lost it.

Discipline is fun live. They toyed with us by making The Frail not lead into The Wretched, but rather into Closer, which was pretty freakin’ awesome. Closer was better than I ever remember hearing before. After Closer, the light show really started. It was better up close than I expected-
during the With Teeth tour, I never really knew what was going on until I saw the live DVD. And it was trippy beyond being able to explain or take pictures of, which helps when you are totally sober.

When the set transitioned into the first Ghosts songs, it felt similar to when the Beastie Boys transition into their instrumental stuff- it’s an astounding set up that feels totally different from everything else, like you’re watching a different band. There’s an empty water cooler bottle involved in Josh Freese’s set up. Robin plays a pan flute, JMJ plays a stand up bass. In fact, I’m going to speculate this may be why Fownes was replaced– perhaps once this set up was imagined, they needed a guy who could play both basses. Other than that, I didn’t watch JMJ much. I miss Jeordie.

The vibraphone was right in front of me and it was awesome. Especially when Reznor played it and the tambourine thing at the same time. At the beginning of this quiet Ghosts section, some really dumb chicks yell “I love you, Trent!” and “Trent Reznor is God!” Ugh. Every show.

During The Greater Good, this cool effect on the screen of Reznor’s face came up, and he also came from behind it and stood right in front of us while this effect was being created by a guy with a hand cam.

If you haven’t figured it out, Reznor pretty much only goes from the center to the right of the stage, and never to the left, which is the exact opposite of Manson, who only goes to the left. Just a tip.

After this, Reznor came out and said that someone was supposed to push a button and raise the light curtain thingy, so the show will continue once that person finds the button. Everyone starts shouting “PRESS THE BUTTON!”

We get the good old stuff with Pinion, Wish, and Terrible Lie. Then Survivalism, where the screen mimics the video for the song, with the compartmented ‘live’ feeds, one on the audience, on on Rez, and one on a chick taking a pee in a bathroom stall (which was not a live feed people, come on).

Robin tossed us his half drunk waters twice. That was my only liquids for 6 hours. But they were special liquids.

The Big Come Down was one of my faves of the evening- I don’t think I had ever heard it before. Only had a weird intro. I thought they were about to do some pop song cover. I was both worried and intrigued for a second and it totally threw me off…in a good way. I can now begin to like Head Like a Hole again, as this is no longer the last song!

It was the first time I had ever seen them do an encore, and it was a long one. Reznor introduced the band, which was also different. He also said something about keeping going for 13 more years. That is music to my ears. He also apologized for the kinks they were still working out since this was the first official night of the tour.

Echoplex was na-na-na-na-na-na nice. I was really afraid the show was going to end on Hurt, which would have really been a downer. The crowd was mostly well behaved, though I heard a few shouters that I believe got a dirty look from Reznor. It was pretty similar to how he performed it at Bridge School, as was Piggy.

Then came the big surprise, In This Twilight, and the crazy industrial visual on the screen. It was quite nice to hear, and the lyric “Ashes in your hair remind me” takes me to a similar place as The Fragile, which is probably my most fave song…damn I wish they had played that. It just feels like great poetry. It was a nice way to end the set, but it was still on a low, dreamy note….which accentuates the bittersweetness of the show being over. I don’t think I’m ever so happy and sad at the same time as when I leave a NIN show. Especially because those nice security guys became mean and wouldn’t give out setlists or anything else.

I didn’t leave entirely empty handed. The poster is not a show specific litho, unfortunately…it’s a tour poster with all of the dates. 🙁

I never think I can become more obsessed with NIN. But when I see them, I dream of the music nonstop. In fact, I think I’m a little depressed. I lead a strange life.

The Oakland show is too far away…

Setlist via ETS:

Letting You
March Of The Pigs
Head Down
The Frail
Gave Up

The Warning
The Great Destroyer
Ghosts 1
Ghosts 25
Ghosts 19
The Greater Good

Pinion/Corona Radiata
Terrible Lie
The Big Come Down
Ghosts 31
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

The Beginning of the End
The Good Soldier
In This Twilight

NIN performance: 9.8/10
Crystal Castles performance: 7.5/10
venue (Key Arena): 8/10
crowd/scene: 8/10
value ($65/ticket): 9/10
memorable: 10/10

will call




Ghosts 19


The Greater Good

Terrible Lie



  1. You must be a VERY NEW NIN fan if you don’t know who Robin Finck is. No worries thanks for the review. See you in the pit.

  2. Wow, it sounds like a great show! Thanks for sharing all the little details, it makes a difference. Sept. 5th can not come soon enough for me. I’ve been scanning YouTube for any recent clips I can find. BTW – I was also bummed to find out ABTBS was not the opening here as well. That would make an already excellent night even more bad ass.

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