Reviewed on Thursday March 6
Hey hey, my my; that rock’n’roll will never die. You’ve heard it all before – you probably heard Alex Turner say it in his BRIT Awards speech last month – but nobody makes the point quite like Trent Reznor and Josh Homme.
Remember, last time they shared a stage at the rock’n’roll unfriendly Grammys ceremony, they were all but thrown off it. What better place than Sydney to plot their revenge? Opening the first night of the joint tour after support act Brody Dalle, Reznor has little to say – yet Nine Inch Nails perform with such conviction that any rock’n’roll dissenters in the room (as if) are instantly smote.
Reznor and his cronies open with ‘A Warm Place’ from The Downward Spiral – 20 years ago, that essential record dropped – before transitioning back and forth through their sprawling catalogue. By the time they reach ‘March Of The Pigs’, it’s clear something special is going on – and not just for the insistent noise storming out of the PA. Reznor’s directorial hand extends beyond his bandmates; truly, the overall production of lights, sounds and set design beats anything else in the world right now.
The songs, of course, all descend into a destructive mess, even through the electronic mid-set section that’s all blips and blops in place of Ilan Rubin’s manic drumming. Here, it’s all about Reznor – the frontman, yes, but also the sound artist. Verse/chorus is for bores.
Where Reznor’s show is about captive immersion, Homme’s is about participation. Queens of the Stone Age are rougher round the edges than their co-headliners, but it seems to work for tonight’s crowd. ‘No One Knows’ and ‘My God Is The Sun’ come early, and Homme introduces ‘If I Had A Tail’ with: “This one’s about telling the man to go fuck himself.”
‘I Sat By The Ocean’ shows all the swagger that Homme was kind enough to teach Turner’s Arctic Monkeys, as does ‘Make It Wit Chu’ – the mosh so riled up by this point, it’s pogoing through a disco ball falsetto chorus. The ceaseless drone of ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ only brings inevitable chaos at the front, and the band responds with an epic jam-out on ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’. Encores bring the chugging singalong to ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ (“That sounds like ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’,” laughs Homme. “My home away from home!”) and ‘A Song For The Dead’, which refuses to die.
Nine Inch Nails are the most musically adventurous of the two acts, but these Queens just rock out like it never went out of fashion, so they’re the fitting closer tonight. It’s hard to see how Reznor will keep up throughout this 11-date tour, and yet you just know he will. The fun is only just beginning.