Earlier this year, Nine Inch Nails began rolling out roughly two-dozen tour dates for 2022. The final date of the year was to be a homecoming show for Nine Inch Nails’ mastermind Trent Reznor in Cleveland, Ohio. Unlike most tours, these dates each featured a different lineup, with the Cleveland dates featuring techno-industrial pioneers Nitzer Ebb and Ministry. That alone would have been enough to excite long-time fans, but little did anyone know this was just a taste of what was to come.
This was my first venture to Blossom Music Center, nestled deep in the woods about thirty minutes south of Cleveland. The 24,000 amphitheater was sold out well in advance of the show and fans could be seen making their pilgrimage down the road for a mile or so from the various parking locations situated outside the venue.
The show opened up with Nitzer Ebb, a British industrial rock group that helped lead the way for what later became techno-industrial. I was unfamiliar with this group heading into the show, but definitely enjoyed their set. These certainly aren’t radio hits, but understandably laid the groundwork for the music that followed shortly after.
After a short set-change, Ministry took the stage, opening with “Breathe,” from 1989’s ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.’ As with their current tour, their stage setup included a chain-link fence that spanned from one end to the other. Reaction to this setup seems to be mixed, but one thing was for sure, vocalist Al Jourgensen worked the audience from one end of the stage to the next. He constantly approached the fence as he shouted the distorted lyrics through to the audience on the other side.
Their set followed with a killer cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” mid-set, and finished with a blistering string of hits including “N.W.O,” “Just One Fix” and “Thieves.” As with the rest of this tour, a notable missing track was “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” Regardless, this didn’t seem to phase the audience as Ministry’s set served to continue to build the fever-pitch as fans awaiting the long-awaiting homecoming performance from Nine Inch Nails.
Heading into this show, I was filled with anticipation, must like everyone else in attendance. Nine Inch Nails is among the bands that I’ve always enjoyed, but have seen live far fewer times than I’d have liked. My first showing was during the “Fragility v2.0” tour back in 2000.
Like most early fans of any band, I grew up a huge fan of the early albums, which in this case, includes everything from “Pretty Hate Machine” through “The Fragile.” With that in mind, tonight hit on so many levels! Trent and company went heavy on the classic favorites, but also managed to include a healthy dose of fantastic newer material, which has already had me building playlists in the days since the show to become more familiar.
The show opened up with “Somewhat Damaged” from ‘The Fragile,’ immediately followed by a trio of songs from ‘The Downward Spiral,’ including “March of the Pigs,” “Piggy” and “Heresy.” More recent tracks included sections from ‘Add Violence,’ ‘Hesitation Marks’ and ‘Bad Witch.’ The set also included a few incredible soundtrack selections such as “The Perfect Drug” (from the ‘Lost Highway’ soundtrack) and “Burn” (from the ‘Natural Born Killers’ soundtrack).
As is the standard production for Nine Inch Nails, the stage was a stripped-down setup, filled with fog and strobe lights. The pair of on-stage videographers might as well have been part of the band. Admittedly, this made for a challenging time photographing the first few songs, but once I got to my seat and was able to watch how they worked, creating the frantic video feed of the band, it became quite clear this was a very deliberate and skilled approach to delivering the show to the fans farther back.
Lately, a typical Nine Inch Nails show runs about twenty songs, but there was definitely a buzz in the air that tonight might be different. Richard Patrick, original touring guitarist (and founding member of Filter) was seen with the band earlier in the day and this is Trent’s homecoming, after all. So, it may come as slightly less of a surprise that the band played a few extra songs this evening. What really shocked the fans wasn’t so much that Richard Patrick joined the stage (which was incredible), it’s that he did so along with classic members Charlie Clouser, Chris Vrenna and Danny Lohner. They all joined the band on stage during “Eraser” and stayed for the next five songs to close out the night, which were almost entirely made up of pre-‘The Downward Spiral” material.
My absolute favorite part of this show was the trio of “Wish,” “Sin” and “Gave Up,” which would have made most fans’ night. What came next was a first (and likely one-time-only) performance of Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot.” This was such a neat moment to see, not just welcoming some of the classic lineup on stage, but really showcasing Patrick’s music for a moment. The night was closed out by a performance of “Head Like a Hole,” where both Reznor and Patrick shared vocal duties.
How does a band top a performance like this? Short of a “reunion” type of tour, I don’t think it’s possible. What’s old was both new and refreshing. Fans were beside themselves and there was nothing more I could ask for in a show.
Whatever the future holds for Nine Inch Nails, I hope to get another opportunity to see this band live again, regardless of what the touring lineup may be.
- Somewhat Damaged
- March of the Pigs
- Less Than
- The Lovers
- Copy of A
- Shit Mirror
- God Break Down the Door
- The Perfect Drug
- The Big Come Down
- The Hand That Feeds
- The Frail
Encore: Featuring Richard Patrick, Charlie Clouser, Chris Vrenna and Danny Lohner)
- Gave Up
- Hey Man, Nice Shot (Filter cover)
- Head Like a Hole