Nine Inch Nails @ the Wiltern in LA (9/10/09)

For those of you tired of reading about Nine Inch Nails on this site, you can sleep easy tonight knowing that this show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles was the very last NIN (and non-Bay Area) show for the foreseeable future. And for those of you who are still looking for a fix, check out this link for past reviews of the NIN shows I've seen since starting this site.

As for the show this past Thursday night, it was truly epic.

Expectations were extremely high for this one. Just a week prior, Trent was forced to cancel the Henry Fonda Theater show, and then this concert at the Wiltern which was originally scheduled for 9/5. The concert at the Echoplex on Sunday, 9/6 was originally meant to be the final show of the tour. And at first, it looked as if the Echoplex would remain as the last show. As word spread that the two shows were being canceled, there were little other details available at the time to know if they'd be rescheduled.

A fan, who was obviously upset that he might miss the Henry Fonda theater concert put this video together:

Luckily, both the Fonda and Wiltern were rescheduled. And I was one of the 2200 people who had a pair of tickets for the Wiltern show -- which due to the rescheduling was now the last NIN concert (ever?).

I took a big risk booking a United flight late in the afternoon that if everything went well, would allow me to get to the theater by 8pm. And as I took my seat as we boarded the plane, my heart sank as a maintenance crew member boarded the plane. Thank God however, when a flight attendant informed him that whatever got him down to the plane to begin with had been fixed without his help! 5 minutes later, we were airborne and things were looking good. We touched down at LAX at about 6.45 and I still had to catch a shuttle to the rental car place, and then deal with traffic on the 30 minute drive over to the Wiltern. Again, if there was any hitch with the shuttle or bad traffic, my night could have started off on the wrong foot. But luckily, things were going my way so far.

The drive was easy over to the Wiltern and I drove up two blocks before finding free street parking. Everything was going according to plan.

Now at this point, I still had an extra ticket to get rid of, so I started at the front of a line that had probably about 75-100 people in it who were all hoping tickets were released for sale at the box office. It seemed the majority of people in the front needed pairs of tickets, but a guy about 6-10 people back jumped at the chance to be my 'plus one'. Now that I found someone to take my extra, we headed over to a different line that had about 25-40 people in it and who were all waiting to pick-up their tickets from the will-call booth.

While we inched our way up towards the front of the line, we spoke with a few others who had traveled from all over the US to get there that night. Besides myself, a guy directly behind us had flown down from Sacramento, CA; and a guy in front of us had bought a plane ticket that same day from Ohio after he was able to buy a ticket online that morning. I didn't ask how much his flight was, but I could guess it was a bundle. It was a pretty cool experience to be surrounded by other nin-nuts like me.

For those of you in the Bay Area, the Wiltern is nearly identical to the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. There's a large standing-room only floor, with a seated balcony. However, the downstairs was being broken into at least two different areas. Certain people were given 'gray' wristbands and others 'blue' wristbands. The gray-colored wristbands got those ticket-holders down into the orchestra pit, right against the stage. The blue wristbands were for the remainder of the floor area.

Upon entering the venue, I had my first celebrity sighting of the night. None other than Ron Jeremy was standing in a line, which I think was providing another wristband for those over 21. For those of you who don't know who Ron Jeremy is, do a google search of his name in the privacy of your own home... The results will definitely be NSFW (not safe for work).

Further into the lobby, a massive crowd of I'm guessing around 150-200 people had surrounded the lone merchandise table. For these last club shows in New York, Chicago and LA, each venue had unique t-shirts and posters that were only available at each of those respective venues. The t-shirts were the ones in extreme limited supply and up until this point, there wasn't a limit to how many any individual could buy. So at each of the previous shows, those limited edition shirts were selling out almost instantly to a handful of people who were then turning them around on ebay for about $250 each. Finally, at the last show of the tour, the band got wise and instituted a strict limit of one t-shirt per person. At the time I arrived, there were still a few shirts available, but I didn't expect they'd still be there by the time I would've gotten to the front of the line so I didn't even bother trying.

I didn't really have any interest in catching the opening band, IO Echo, who was on stage at the time I entered the lobby, so I hung out for a bit chatting and trading NIN stories with some of the people I had just met in the line outside.

About 30 minutes later, IO Echo had finished their set and the stage was being prepared for the main event of the night... Nine Inch Nails!

I made my way onto the floor and found a decent spot with good visibility directly behind the front-of-house sound and light boards. Coincidentally, also there behind the board was a couple that I met before the Sunday night show at the Echoplex. It's definitely a small world, and again, it was pretty cool to be surrounded by die-hard NIN fans.

As we waited for the stage to get ready, my second and last celebrity sighting of the night happened when Tony Hawk decided to hang out behind the sound boards too. From what I could tell, he would stay in that spot throughout the majority of the show. Someone asked him what his favorite NIN album was, and I thought I overheard him say that he liked Pretty Hate Machine and The Fragile. Later on, I noticed him bobbing his head during "Head Like a Hole" but besides that, at least from what I noticed, he kept his cool throughout the show.

Finally, as the clock got closer to 9.15 and then 9.20, the fog machine started to spew and at just about 9.25, the droning guitar that starts the song 'Home' started to blare as Robin Finck, Nail's lead guitarist strolled onstage. The beginning of the end had begun... And the crowd went nuts. This is what I expected out of the crowd at the Echoplex just days before. The raw energy was just intense and when Trent took the stage, we all erupted into a frenzy.

Songs that immediately followed didn't differ all that much from previous shows, but the band seemed to feed off the energy from the crowd.

Check out this video of "Somewhat Damaged" which followed the opener, "Home" -- which has a slow build until both the band and crowd erupts. This video was shot from Synthetikz, a forum member:

Later on in the set, David Bowie's pianist, Mike Garson, joined the band on stage to perform "Just Like You Imagined" off The Fragile album. Although it's hard to say that I actually have a favorite NIN song since there are so many, this one is definitely in the top-5. It's an absolutely beautiful track that combines Garson's gorgeous piano playing with a beating bass and drum line and more of Robin's trademark droning guitar. Continuously building until Trent's pained vocals join the mix. All combined with the harsh electronic white noise that's seamlessly blended into the mix. Here's the video I shot with my Sony Cybershot:


Moving on, Garson continued with the band for another 3 songs before being joined onstage with Gary Numan. The collective now launched into a fantastic version of Gary Numan's 1979 hit single, "Down In the Park". Garson then left the stage and let Numan continue on with the band for versions of Numan's "Metal" and "I Die; You Die".

At this point, the band had played for about an hour and a half, and little did any of us know that they weren't even close to finishing yet! Gary left the stage and the core band launched into a few of their more recent tunes before turning the clock back to 1991 with a rendition of the Pigface classic (co-written by Reznor), "Suck". Here's the video I shot of "Suck":

To give you an idea of the intensity of the crowd, check out this clip of "Head Like a Hole" below. I'm telling you, the place was rocking! Simply incredible!

The band took a break after "Head Like a Hole" and by that point, I wouldn't have been surprised if they ended it there. But within minutes, Trent came back out onstage, this time joined by a new guest, who I couldn't immediately tell who it was. The duo broke into "Me, I'm Not" with Trent on keyboards and the mystery guest on what looked to be a turntable or small DJ-rig... It turns out that it was Atticus Ross, who is Trent's right-hand man when he's holed up in the recording studio since the late 1990's. To my knowledge, this was the first time he's ever taken the stage live with Trent or the band, so it was a pretty cool sight to behold.

You'll see from my next video, that Dave Navarro (of Jane's Addiction) came out to join the duo next on "The Warning" -- you'll also see that my camera has a tough time with red light. Dave is on the left, Trent center stage, and Atticus is still in front of his small rig on the center-right.

Navarro continued for a couple more songs before being replaced, this time by the Dillinger Escape Plan -- and these guys were there to create mayhem. Running, jumping, throwing light stands, mic stands, kick drums, just about anything they could get a hold of. One of the guys even launched his body into the Ilan's drumset -- as he was playing it! They were absolutely nuts. Here's my video of "Mr. Self Destruct" which doesn't really start until after the first minute of footage:

The Dillinger Escape Plan continued with the high-octane "Wish" before leaving the stage back to the core-NIN members for two classic covers by Joy Division, "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls".

As the night continued to march forward, I knew we were getting close to the end when Trent took a minute to thank the band, the fans, and the crew. In fact, he forgot to thank the crew and stopped the next song, "The Day the World Went Away" (TDWWA), not once, but twice to thank the front of house crew -- which were the guys at the sound/light boards right in front of me, and the crew backstage as well. Check out the video which starts out pretty funny -- my memory card filled up, so I wasn't able to get the whole song:

TDWWA led into the similarly quiet "Hurt" which of course was turned into a 'Top 40' hit when Johnny Cash covered it right before his death a few years ago. And finally, and I do mean finally, NIN closed out the set and night with "In This Twilight". Although I was a *little* surprised that they didn't play "Closer" at all through the night, I couldn't have been happier to have been a part of this show. Again, although a bit cliche, it was an epic night.

Here's the complete setlist that I pulled from the forums. I've linked the names of the songs to my videos on YouTube, and also linked to (Synthetikz's) videos that he captured in HD. As you can see, he got most of the show from right towards the front of the venue.

1. Home (Synthetikz)
2. Somewhat Damaged (Synthetikz)
3. The Collector (Synthetikz)
4. Discipline (Synthetikz)
5. March of The Pigs (Synthetikz)
6. Something I Can Never Have (Synthetikz)
7. The Frail (Synthetikz)
8. The Wretched (Synthetikz)
9. Ruiner (Synthetikz)
10. Head Down (Synthetikz)
11. Burn (Synthetikz)
12. Just Like You Imagined (w Mike Garson) (Synthetikz)
13. La Mer (w Mike Garson) (Synthetikz)
14. Eraser (w Mike Garson) (Synthetikz)
15. The Becoming (Still) (w Mike Garson) (Synthetikz)
16. Down In The Park (w Gary Numan & Mike Garson intro) (Synthetikz)
17. Metal (w Gary Numan) (Synthetikz)
18. I Die: You Die (w Gary Numan) (Synthetikz)

19. 1,000,000 (Synthetikz)
20. Letting You (Synthetikz)
21. Survivalism (Synthetikz)
22. Suck (Synthetikz)
23. Down In It (Synthetikz)
24. The Hand That Feeds (Synthetikz)
25. Head Like A Hole (Synthetikz)

26. Me, I'm Not (w Atticus Ross) (Synthetikz)
27. The Warning (w Atticus Ross & Dave Navarro) (Synthetikz)
28. Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now) (w Dave Navarro) (Synthetikz)
29. Gave Up (w Dave Navarro) (Synthetikz)

30. Mr. Self Destruct (w The Dillinger Escape Plan) (Synthetikz)
31. Wish (w The Dillinger Escape Plan) (Synthetikz)
32. Atmosphere (cover - Joy Division)
33. Dead Souls (cover - Joy Division)
34. The Good Soldier (Synthetikz)
35. The Day The World Went Away (Synthetikz)
36. Hurt (Synthetikz)
37. In This Twilight (Synthetikz)

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