John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

NINJA 2009

May 11th, 2009

Just got back from Tampa – got to see my mom for Mother’s day and we also got to see an epic concert that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.  I’m talking about the NINJA 2009 tour – Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction.  With $55 tickets and $13 whiskey drinks, its by far the most expensive show I’ve been to – yet it oddly seems worth the price in retrospect.

Street Sweeper Social Club opened up… No, I hadn’t heard of them either and they don’t even have an album out yet.  Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine fame) shredded the guitar while the bass stayed in funk mode.  The vocalist was solid but the rythm guitarist’s dissonant noise didn’t seem to fit in quite right.  He seemed almost constrained and stuck in Tom’s shadow, like he wanted to break out into a wicked solo of his own but never got the chance.  I always appreciate a rock band with a social message, so I have to add points for anyone who spends their precious on-stage time to rally support for their various anti-poverty (and anti-authoritarian) political cause.

Nine Inch Nails stormed the stage early – while the sun was still up.  I think people were expecting Jane’s Addiction to go on first – yet all of a sudden, Trent was on stage halfway into his first song without any sort of warning or announcement.  The stage lights were blinding strobes behind the band – so the audience could rarely see more than silouhettes of the musicians.  The realization was surreal – it was hard to believe what we were hearing.

While the performance was true to the feeling of the recorded songs, there was also a bit more depth to the guitar, bass, and drum parts.  Robin Finck, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Ilan Rubin didn’t just capture the essence of Trent’s songs, they added their own levels of depth and interpretation.  As a guitar & bass junkie, I really appreciated the variations and departures from the studio version.

The set seemed to go on for a long time – and in a good way.  Nine Inch Nails stayed on stage all throughout sundown and into the early hours of night.  There was an instrumental rendition of Hurt about half way through the performance, and after another half dozen tracks they finally got around to playing & singing the entire song for their finale.  Someone nearby complained that they didn’t play Closer, but I don’t pay big bucks to hear something the radio has overplayed for fifteen years.

There was no real visual spectacle – it was just good hard rock, crazy electronic sounds, and soulful singing.

By the time Jane’s Addiction came up, the full moon was rising and the crowd was anxiously wondering if anything could top the epic hours of performance NIN has just pulled off under a hot Florida sun.

Perry Farrell led the crowd into something out of this world.  One doesn’t normally imagine thousands of people dancing together to a raucus punk sound, but the rythm was strong and the vocals seemed to transcend simple human singing.  Jane’s Addiction’s studio albums never particularly capitvated me, but now I realize they are that rare 1 in 10,000 band that actually sounds better live.  The set was short, but it was epic.  I don’t know if it was the bittersweet energy of a reunion / farewell tour, the lunar radiation, or just an incredible mix of vocal proficiency and fat bass beats.  The latter explanation may be technically correct, but it seems too simple to fully explain the feeling…




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