Live Review:
Nine Inch Nails

Manchester O2 Apollo, 20 June 2022

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The last time Trent Reznor brought his angsty industrial music to Manchester’s O2 Apollo was a whole 15 years ago. Ticket prices may have skyrocketed since then, but Nine Inch Nails make sure they are worth every penny.

A picture of physical health, at 57 years old frontman Reznor looks better than a lot of people half his age. But this isn’t a one-man show. Only using half of the stage, each member is brought to the front showing how integral they are to the performance. Although not all official, they are longstanding touring members and vital to the band’s image and sound. Breaking with convention, members swap instruments throughout the performance, depending on what the song entails. The sound clarity is flawless with no hiccups or bumps, the roadies (who also deserve recognition) swiftly bring synths and guitars on and off stage, allowing no breathing space between songs.

Opening with Somewhat Damaged, from 1999 album The Fragile, each musician dons a guitar for the jarring distorted sound to set the mood the only way they know how, whilst Reznor screams his lungs out with no warm-up. They speed through a varied set list that spans their entire back catalogue, often opting to leave out the main hits for lesser-known album tracks, performing some more recent songs such as And All That Could Have Been and Ahead of Ourselves, and even wheeling out some they haven’t played live in over 10 years, such as Discipline and Every Day is Exactly the Same.

As good as it is hearing a band smash out 22 songs back to back in an hour and 45 minutes, Reznor only acknowledges the crowd twice in that time. Not that it’s completely necessary, but thanking the crowd for supporting the band doesn’t go amiss, as well as recognising the city they are playing in. But not every band is the same, and Reznor opts to give the audience the Nine Inch Nails musical experience instead.

The lighting lifts the entire performance, with rigs set up behind each performer, finetuned to be in sync with every track as lasers shoot across the audience and the band performs in strobe. The attention to detail is what really makes this concert special – along with the sheer talent of the musicians. The night is capped off with a rousing rendition of Hurt, which has more or less been the band’s closer ever since it was released 28 years ago. Predictable it may be but this does nothing to diminish its power. Nine Inch Nails continue to set the bar for what a performance should truly be.

Photo: Corinne Schiavone

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