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08/05/2008 Nine Inch Nails, Deerhunter (Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre)

By Eric | August 5, 2008 11:59 pm

Sara and I rolled up the QEW to visit our friends to the north, making a day trip out of it. We got to the downtown area around noon, walked up and down Queen St., hit the Eaton Centre for lunch, and then got to the ACC around 3ish. I waited in line at the box office to get my pre-sale ticket, but got in the regular line as neither Sara nor her friends had pre-sale tickets. It was just as well, because her friends were close to the start of the line, and also, it started pouring, and the pre-sale line had no shelter, while we were along the side of the building that had a canopy. So we were nice and dry, while the “special” line got soaked. Once inside, we pretty much ended up in the same spot anyway!

So we figured the crowd would be rowdy, as most Toronto GA shows tend to be, so Sara and I went to the far right of the floor, about 10-15 people back. We hung along a temporary barrier that was set up to separate the seats from the GA floor. (As it turned out, the crowd was such that we could have stayed in the thick of it without getting killed. Oh well. More on that later.) Deerhunter was up first, and God were they boring. Not bad, not terrible, just out and out boring as hell. Their Myspace page lists them as Ambient / Garage / Punk. May as well have listed them as white noise, because they put me to sleep. The 40 or so minutes couldn’t go fast enough. It’d be easier if they were awful, because you could actively make fun of them, but they were musically competent, just not exciting at all.

Anyway, on to the good part. Nails! After a respite, the opening strains of “999,999” could be heard, the band appeared, the stage lit up, and they slammed into “1,000,000”. Continuing the tracklist from The Slip, “Letting You” and “Discipline” were next. I was pretty much standing in awe of the whole spectacle. The stage setup was incredible. The light show was amazing, even better than Fragility (and that’s saying a lot). They got everyone whipped up with “March Of The Pigs”, then “Head Down”. Then it got a little confusing, as they played “The Frail”, but as opposed to the usual continuation into The Wretched, we got “Closer” instead. WEEEE-IRD. Back to the heavy stuff with “Gave Up”, then a taste of Year Zero with “The Warning” and “Vessel” played with a smaller electronic-only setup at the front of the stage in front of one of the “light curtains”.

We were curious as to why they did this, until we saw what came next. The “light curtain” was pulled up to reveal an almost orchestral setup, with Josh playing timpani, the bass player playing an upright bass (and also with a bow as a cello), and Trent playing a xylophone, of all things! Why all this? To play some selections from Ghosts! For those scoring at home, we got “5 Ghosts I”, “6 Ghosts I”, and “19 Ghosts III”, and then a new stripped down version of “Piggy” (apparently listed on the setlist as Ghosts Piggy). The curtain came back down as “The Greater Good” played, and at the end, Trent and a cameraman appeared in front of the curtain, and the curtain actually had a distorted video image of Trent singing. A pretty cool effect.

The curtain came back up to “Pinion” into “Wish”, and then a crowd surge for “Terrible Lie”. The video boards in the back were used to great effect on “Survivalism”, as there was a grid of about 8 different camera angles displayed, both on the stage and throughout the arena, including one in the mens room! (Whoever the dude in the front row was, you knew you were on camera and you weren’t rocking out… what gives?). The curtain came back down, but you could see right through it, as we got our only “real” song from The Fragile, which was “The Big Come Down”, which featured the band batting around what looked like swinging fluorescent shop lights around. To clean that stage setup up, we got “31 Ghosts IV” as a sort of interlude, before Robin came to the fore for a new intro to “Only”. “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like A Hole” closed out the main set. The curtain came down again, in anticipation of the encore. Josh was essentially playing the video screen like a beatbox before the rest of the band appeared to start “Echoplex”. Back to Year Zero for “God Given” and “The Good Soldier”, and then what we thought would be the closer, “Hurt”. Only they had one more trick up their sleeve, leaving the stage one by one to “In This Twilight”.

Overall, it was a great show, with a more sedate crowd than we expected. That isn’t to say they weren’t into it, because they were, but it wasn’t the rough and tumble Toronto GA crowd we usually experience. The band was in top form, you could tell Trent was straining just a bit, fighting a cold, but it didn’t hamper anything. Robin is back in the band, and let me say, ROBIN IS BACK. It was awesome. A great great show, and a recording showed up not soon after, so I have the audio, and there’s a mess of YouTube clips available as well. One of the best, embedded below, is a montage of highlights from the show.

Letting You
March of the Pigs
Head Down
The Frail
Gave Up
Corona Radiata (partial)
The Warning
5 Ghosts I
6 Ghosts I
19 Ghosts III
The Greater Good
Terrible Lie
The Big Come Down
31 Ghosts IV
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

God Given
The Good Soldier
In This Twilight

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