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Due to such a palaver about getting a wristband and prepaid tickets at the MEN, I missed tonight’s performance by Mew. However, there was no way that I was going to miss Jane’s Addiction, particularly as Eric Avery is back, completing the original line-up not seen on these shores since 1991. The arena doesn’t appear that full as the lights go down and the band take to the stage, starting with the epic Three Days. This ten minute symphony was immense, and despite their turbulent history, Jane’s demonstrate why they are one of the most groundbreaking bands of the last twenty years.

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Dave Navarro’s awesome guitar work interwoven with Perry Farrell’s unique vocals creates a mesmeric atmosphere within the front of the arena. This magic continues to flow throughout their set, most noticeably Ted, Just Admit It and Ocean Size, both of which took me to another level. The power Stephen Perkins (who was just wearing a pair of pants) puts behind his use of unorthodox rhythms enhances the groove of every track whilst Avery’s bass lines, at the beginning of Mountain Song and Whores, get the crowd jumping.

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Farrell flies around the stage, posing at every available opportunity whilst giving it his all, occasionally missing the odd note but who’s counting? Even their most famous and over played song, Been Caught Stealing, took on another dimension. Farrell is aware that the majority of the crowd are there to see Nine Inch Nails, yet he encourages the crowd to love them in the way they love us. Unfortunately, all too soon, the band leave the stage; however, they return briefly to belt out Stop!, which gets the crowd moving again, with its funky opening riff. Then the house lights come up and, even though you are elevated by the strength of Jane’s Addiction’s performance, you can never be sure if you are going to get the opportunity to see this great band play again ever, let alone to such a high standard.

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After half an hour, in which to regroup and get beer, Nine Inch Nails take to the stage for what is to be their final tour. NIN is the brainchild of Trent Reznor, and he has been at the pinnacle of industrial rock for the last two decades. The band set the tone for their show with Somewhat Damaged, hitting the audience with a vast sound intensified by a blinding array of strobes and white lights. Reznor, physically, gives everything to his performance, jumping around the stage, returning to the front for Terrible Lie, before embarking on a trilogy of tracks taken from, arguably their best album, The Downward Spiral. The crowd respond most favourably to tempo changing March of the Pigs, which sparks independent mini mosh pits throughout the standing area. As NIN are a fluid line-up, Reznor knows how to get the best out of the musicians who have joined him for this tour. Musically they are flawless whilst allowing Reznor to remain the central focus.

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Within the set, Reznor has included two cover versions, Gary Numan’s Metal, (which sounded slightly like The Knack’s My Sharona) and Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans, which were met with due enthusiasm; however, I felt they were unnecessary as he has such a vast back catalogue of his own music. Alternatively, if you are going to do a cover version, whilst in Manchester, why not Dead Souls. The set then took an up turn, with the unleashing of the violent Gave Up followed by the haunting melody of La Mer, which took the crowd on an emotional journey.

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As the set continues, I began to sense the awkwardness of seeing NIN in such a large venue, it seems so unnatural for Trent to be encouraging a crowd to clap and the inner fury, that was so vehemently displayed during the tour of 1994, which added weight to the sincerity of his lyrics, is distinctly lacking.

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Wish, Suck and The Day the World Went Away make welcome appearances, and continue to demonstrate the volume and power that this band can produce; however the rest of the set does little to inspire me. The obvious beats and melody of The Hand That Feeds pleases the majority of the audience as does Head Like A Hole. I struggle with this track live at the best of times, but the irony of the lyrics and the crowd is even more conspicuous, as Reznor is the one in control and the most of the crowd are eager to serve. The final nail in the coffin is Hurt, which is lyrically an intensely painful song to hear and all this emotion gets lost in the communal sing along. It would have been far more rewarding to hear The Great Below or Something I Can Never Have in its place.

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NIN are an amazing live band, as musically they are tight and they have some truly fantastic songs, however, this all became sanitised in the arena environment. Admittedly, I am not the angry teenager of the early 90’s that needed NIN as a release, but the Trent of then was not so concerned about having a vast selection of instruments on stage, all he showed was raw destructive emotion and that is what I felt was missing from tonight’s performance. For me, Jane’s Addiction’s alternative rock ‘n’ roll won the NINJA battle.

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Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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