Nine Inch Nails

support Cold Cave
author AP date 13/05/14 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

Never before has a concert been so heavily and desperately advertised in Copenhagen as this, the return of Nine Inch Nails to Copenhagen five years since their triumphant performance at Roskilde Festival in 2009. Seeing this amount of promotion for the show, there was little doubt that Live Nation had overestimated the popularity of what is effectively still a cult band, yet still sold too many tickets to downgrade them from the 10,000 capacity Forum to the 2,100 capacity Falconer Salen; and as such, I fear the worst as I make my way through the drizzle to the venue on my bike. Arriving at there, I am relieved to find that there are, in fact, quite a few people in attendance - even if the venue has been sliced in half by a black curtain, supposedly to still elicit that feeling of intimacy and togetherness that is so integral to concerts of this magnitude. I'd put my estimate at some 4,000 people, but who knows?

Full gallery from the show available at troest.nu

Cold Cave

As the clock strikes 21:00, it is time for these proceedings to be opened. It is no small honour to be hand chosen by Trent Reznor as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails - yet having read my colleague Tim 'TL' Larsen's review of their previous Copenhagen show, Cold Cave were going to have to pull something special out of their sleeves to impress me. Cold Cave is the moniker for Wesley Eisold, whom some readers may recognise as the one-armed vocalist from hardcore punk acts American Nightmare and Give Up the Ghost, and since 2013, he has been accompanied on tour by Amy Lee (of The Meek, not Evanescence), who handles the synths and provides the occasional backing vocals to this mix of synthpop and darkwave. Which, you may have guessed, is why I'm grappling so much with liking any of it.

Eisold performs with a kind of indifference that suits his Joy Division style baritone singing and South Park goth kids style of addressing the crowd in between songs well, but there is swagger to the man as well, as he spends barely a second standing still, preferring instead to dance to the heavy bass beats and chiming synth arrangements resonating from Lee's instrument and sample boards. But even if this was a genre to my taste, the Forum stage - only half of which is available to the duo depth-wise - is too enormous for a band probably best experienced in an intimate nightclub. The last song ("Icons of Summer", perhaps?) is quite decent, all massive, pulsating bass and cool lighting, yet I must confess to being bored out of my mind for much of Cold Cave's 40-minute performance. That probably stems from my lack of interest in the genre though, and because this webzine is dedicated to rock music, I shall leave the grading out and consider it merely as an experience.

Nine Inch Nails

After a 35 minute wait, the lights dim and the fraction of the audience that constitutes the core of Danish NIN fans, stretching from the stage to the rear bar in a triangular mass, erupts in euphoria. Though at this point much of the stage and the rumoured awesome production is still obscured by an opaque grey curtain, the light show which accompanies opening duo "Copy of A" and "The Beginning of the End" still verges on stunning, with especially the cool alternating silhouette effect - produced by angled back lights - during the latter driving me to pull the famed "not bad" face expression immortalised by Barack Obama. Couple this with a sound mix that is sounding uncharacteristically crisp for Forum standards, and there's infinite promise lingering in the air.

But if you came to Forum expecting a hit parade, you will have been sorely disappointed, as tonight's setlist has first and foremost been crafted to satisfy the hardcore fan. When the curtain drops to reveal Ilan Rubin's frenzied antics behind the kit (he has been doubling on bass guitar up until now) in between "The Beginning of the End" and "Letting You", there is briefly the suggestion that Trent Reznor might indeed unload one hit after the other on us as he commands us to "March, pigs!" in the lead-up to crowd favourite "March of the Pigs", but from then on the concert is full of rarities that the truly dedicated surely receive with enthusiasm. This enthusiasm visibly rubs off on Reznor and his band (completed by multi-instrumentalists Robin Finck & Alessandro Cortini), who are all brimming with energy and that sense of urgency and intent for which Reznor especially is renowned.

Still, with a sizable portion of the audience here by virtue of the inordinate amount of free tickets dished out left and right in the week leading up to the show, it's understandable that Nine Inch Nails are not at their most spectacular; they do what they must to entertain and do it professionally, but having seen what grandeur Reznor & co. are capable of five years ago, their demeanour on stage is admittedly a little underwhelming at times. That matters little, however, with a production as brazen as this - a stripped down version of what NIN have been touring with stateside of late. Each song is complemented by a unique, custom designed light show: vivid green, with a sort of scale effect during the seldom played "Reptile"; moody aquatic blues, indigoes & turquoises and trippy, soft visualisations in the slower "Sanctified"; and cool digital blocks projected onto a halved version of the transparent canvas in "The Warning".

Just how magnificent this lighting, and the way in which it has been synced to fit the songs, is difficult to express in words, so let me quote my colleague Hanna Ella 'HES' Sandvik's musings: "I would love this so much if I was on ecstasy". So despite the fact that both "All Time Low" and "Came Back Haunted" strike me as a little underwhelming in the live setting, there's so much here to lose yourself in. And with the brilliant hard-hitting finale of "Eraser", "Wish", "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole" - which sounds absolutely monolithic tonight - it's difficult to see how anyone could be going home with a frown. It doesn't end there of course; the encore kicks off with the fantastic "Closer", almost everyone roaring "I wanna fuck you like an animal! I want to feel you from the inside! I wanna fuck you like an animal! My whole existence is flawed - you get me closer to God!" in its chorus. I am positively surprised to discover the touching "The Day the World Went Away" sandwiched in between this track and the expected conclusion "Hurt", but it is a welcome addition to an evening full of great, albeit somewhat less known NIN tracks that probably alienate some, yet send others into euphoria.

8

Setlist:

  • Copy of A
  • The Beginning of the End
  • Letting You
  • March of the Pigs
  • Something I Can Never Have
  • Reptile
  • Survivalism
  • Gave Up
  • Sanctified
  • The Warning
  • All Time Low
  • Came Back Haunted
  • Eraser
  • Wish
  • The Hand That Feeds
  • Head Like a Hole

--Encore--

  • Closer
  • The Day the World Went Away
  • Hurt

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