Featuring: Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Brody Dalle and Sweethead.
It’s Thursday 6 March, 2014. The day starts with me getting up at 6am. I stumble around in the dark (yeah it’s dark then, who knew?), get all my shit in order and head out the door of my house at about 6:45am towards the train station. What follows is this:
Walk to train.
Train to city.
Bus to airport.
Plane to Sydney.
Train to city.
Walk to hostel.
Go for lunch.
Accidentally buy shoes.
Then come back to my room for a little lie down before heading to the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
If you are planning to see these guys play during their current tour DO NOT READ ON! Seriously, spoilers and stuff. Trust me when I say going in without preparation will make it so much better.
The gig officially starts at 7pm with Brody Dalle and her band. Being a bit of a nerd, and believing that you should give support acts your time, I turned up very early. I had time to have a bit of a chat with some of the staff behind the bar, with the ushers, with the guy who checked my ticket at the door. I was clearly one of the very few seated audience members who thought being early was a good idea. The standing area (mosh pit) was about a third full, but the stands were conspicuously empty.
As a result of having a chat with the usher, he offered me a seat upgrade. What a stroke of luck! I ended up being five rows from the front of the seated area, off to the side (but at a better angle than my original tickets). Score!
At bang on 7pm Brody Dalle and her band strode on stage. There were still very few punters in the audience, but to their credit the band seemed unphased by this.
Dalle herself is a fantastically rock front woman. She has a killer vocal style which sits somewhere between singing, screaming and growling. I honestly don’t understand how she can talk normally and still produce such intense, guttural sounds. She is slim, blond, and knows she’s kicking ass. Her stage presence unquestioned. I was not familiar with Dalle’s body of work, but I feel like this is something that I should address at my earliest convenience.
The set list is as follows:
- Die on a Rope (The Distillers song)
- Dismantle Me (The Distillers song)
- Rat Race
- Don’t Mess With Me
- Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy
- Ghetto Love (Spinnerette song)
Following her set, the roadies cleared the stage and started putting up new equipment. It had not been announced who, out of NIN and QOTSA, would be playing first, by all accounts it was going to be decided by coin toss, but the keyboards and synthesisers on stage made if pretty clear that NIN would be on first that night. I was exceedingly excited. I have been a fan of NIN for a long time, ever since a highschool boyfriend introduced me to their work. I’ve listened to Trent Reznor’s singing, screaming, yelling and crooning to soothe me to sleep on more than one occasion after a bad day. I’ve bounced up and down to them at parties, and more recently I’ve used their newest album, ‘Hesistation Marks’ as motivational music at the gym. Something about Trent’s cold, controlled fury and industrial beats really helps when I’m doing weights!
So at 7:50pm, when the smoke machines covered the stage and the lights went down announcing the band’s presence on the stage, and Reznor’s legendary self at the front I screamed and whooped and bounced and was generally filled with nervous anticipation.
The NIN setlist was as follows:
- A Warm Place
- Somewhat Damaged
- Letting You
- Terrible Lie
- March of the Pigs
- Came Back Haunted
- Me, I’m Not
- Copy of A
- Gave Up
- The Hand That Feeds
- Head Like a Hole
The highlights from this set were the entire arena yelling ‘fist fuck’ in Wish and Trent’s dance moves (an honourable mention should also go to the manskirt that he was wearing). I also very much enjoyed that several of the songs played were remixed versions, and the audience were required to pay attention to find out what the song was. These were moments of uncertainty followed by a collective cry of recognition from the crowd. In addition to being generally awesome, Trent jumped down off the stage and touched the crowd and the mosh pit lost its shit.
I took a few photos, but I made a conscious effort to enjoy what was happening in front of me. In an age where I can see a concert through the lens of a camera basically any time I want I wanted to savour the experience of actually being near one of my all time favourite performers.
Once the set was finished, with ‘Hurt’, a song choice that seems to be a signature of NIN but none the less has pros and cons (pro: it’s a fucking amazing song, con: everyone felt a bit deflated by Reznor’s emotional rendition of a difficult song) there was another short interval in which the stage was completely reset.
NIN had a fairly empty stage; they had low hanging lights, used a lot of smoke machine and used the lights to carve trails through the smoke. The effect was pretty cool, if occasionally a bit too heavy on the smoke so that the band members were obscured. QOTSA had a massive screen behind their set, they had big red, retro-looking speaker stacks on the stage, and they had laid what looked like shiny red linoleum on the floor. If not for the fact that I was there, I wouldn’t have believed it was the same gig.
On the screen behind the stage a huge countdown introduced them. As the band walked out, Joshua Homme had some serious swagger going on (although as a rock star wearing a leather jacket and a guitar it would be hard not to swagger). It was very attractive. They then dove straight into a powerful set which was full of their great songs and had everyone in the house going off tap. The mosh pit was writhing like a living organism and a couple of times when I looked over a circle had appeared in which some patrons were clearly dancing with considerable vigour and the others decided to give them some space. I worried that someone had started a fight, but I think it was just good natured overly excited dancing.
The QOTSA setlist is as follows:
- You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
- No One Knows
- My God Is the Sun
- Burn The Witch
- Smooth Sailing
- …Like Clockwork
- If I Had a Tail
- Little Sister
- Fairweather Friends
- I Sat by the Ocean
- Make It Wit Chu
- Sick, Sick, Sick
- 3′s & 7′s
- Better Living Through Chemistry
- Go With the Flow
- The Vampyre of Time and Memory
- Feel Good Hit of the Summer
- A Song for the Dead
The highlight of the show was the epic jam that happened in the middle of one of the songs (I think it was ’3′s &7′s’, but let me know if that’s wrong), the song lasted for about 15mins. The band would be jamming away and they’d go to a quiet part and the crowd would think they were done and cheer, but they weren’t done.
I’ve read some reviews which were of the opinion that QOTSA played a better gig. I have mixed feelings about that analysis. Sure, QOTSA had a more pronounced crowd response, but I would argue that their music is better suited to rocking out than NIN. Additionally, Reznor has said in interviews that he has been striving to make the shows interesting for him to play as well as interesting for us to attend. I think that part of that manifests as a slightly experimental, and as a result more challenging concert experience. Additionally, for this show anyway, the audience were much drunker by the time QOTSA got on stage so that probably helped too. I should probably mention here that I’ve been a NIN fan for longer than QOTSA so I guess I’m always going to think they’re amazing.
It was now 11:30pm but my night was not over! After the last song of the QOTSA encore, I gathered myself up and headed up to the Oxford Art Factory to see Sweethead; a band composed of two guitarists, Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita and the drummer, Jon Theodore, from QOTSA and singer Serrina Sims.
I didn’t know any of the songs, and I’d only heard about the gig a couple of days earlier when it was announced, but I thought for under $20 it was worth checking out. I’m very glad I did! Sweethead are a tight bunch, they have consistently rocking tunes and Serrina does some excellent front woman work. From the black catsuit, to the thigh high diamonte heels to the repeated pouring of liquid over herself, she doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. I would have liked her vocal to be turned up a bit more in the mix but other than that it was a stand up show. The set was only 30 mins, having starting at 1am after already playing a set of well over an hour, you couldn’t blame them for keeping it short and sweet.
I’m not going to try to rate my night because I think trying to quantify it into something that simple looses all meaning, but it was, truly, one of the most spectacularly memorable nights of my life. Well worth the ticket price!