Manchester Apollo, 25th Feb 2007
Black As Your Soul
The first thing apparent on walking into the Apollo tonight is the a range of people that this band has attracted. There are old-school goths (*ahem*) and the multi-pierced long term, hardcore fans, through to indie teens and the odd achingly cool poseur. I pity the poor studenty neophyte standing behind me, whose friends have managed to convince her that a roadie’s torch, gripped in the mouth, is actually an oral implant that they have when they start the job. Boy, is she in for a surprise tonight!
I’m determined not to miss the support act, Ladytron, but by the time I am ensconced in the crowd clutching my frothy Carling, they are already one song into their half hour set. The Liverpool-based band do not disappoint. Their electronica vs. guitar-rock soundclash is clearly heavily influenced by 70s and 80s Krautrock, and their darkened set complete with a flickering black and white cine film behind the band completes the ambience. They draw heavily from their defining album ‘Witching Hour’, with a set that includes ‘Soft Power’, ‘Fighting In Built Up Areas’ and culminating with a driving ‘Destroy Everything you Touch’.
“You only have to look behind you
At who’s undermined you
Destroy everything you touch today
Destroy me this way”
It’s about 45 minutes before Nine Inch Nails take to the stage, and as the crew work, the arena is pumped with smoke to the extent that visibility is obscured to all but the first couple of rows. There are glimpses of a stripped-down minimalist set. ‘Like a cheap sci-fi set’ someone close to me says. Personally, I think it’s more reminiscent of a slaughterhouse, with low hung pendulum lamps that swing casting eerie Texas Chainsaw-type shadows below. Reznor and fellow band members eventually power onto the stage to raptuous roars, and the crowd of the pit surges forward to the high-turbo thrash of ‘Mr.Self Destruct’. It’s a full-on industrial rush for the first few numbers, including ‘Sin’, ‘Terrible Lie’ and ‘March Of The Pigs’ I am trapped in the crowd, I can’t move my arms, I’m soaked by flying drinks and almost crushed by a flying guitarist, but it’s wonderful. It isn’t until a haunting ‘Something I Can Never Have’ that there is a pause to catch breath. The respite is only brief though, as Reznor leads us all down the path of aggression and dark self-doubt that is ‘Closer’, and the venue resounds with the roared back lyrics:
“My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to god”
There’s the sense that everyone is satisfied, that this gig has lived up to everyone’s expectations and that Reznor can do no wrong. With the band on the eve of the release of their latest album, ‘Year Zero’, it would have been very easy for them to indulge the opportunity to showcase their new material, but instead the set is heavily weighted towards the back catalogue, with ‘Ruiner’, ‘Only’ and ‘Hand That Feeds’ all making an appearance. Reznor takes to the stage with only a keyboard for a spiritual rendition of ‘Hurt’. The set climaxes with a ferocious ‘Head Like a Hole’; Reznor launches his guitar skywards, and then they are gone. There is no encore. I move away with the rest of the crowd – I’m drenched with beer and water, battered and bruised and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the bloke behind me mistook the back of my leg for a urinal. It doesn’t matter. It’s only the end of February and I already feel like I’ve experienced my gig of the year. Other bands beware, you have a long way to go to top that live experience.