I had downloaded the video for ‘The Hand That Feeds’ and just couldn’t get the song out of my head.
I arrived in London at about 1:00pm and walked down Tottenham Court Road to where I thought the Astoria was located. I’d never seen it before but had a vague recollection that I had walked past it last november, on my last visit to our nations capital. It does not look in the best of shape. It looks like it hasn’t had anything done to it since the days of Queen Victoria. I thought, “What the hell are Nine Inch Nails doing playing here!”. Of course the really hardcore fans, or those without hotel rooms to go to, were already queuing at a quarter to two. I headed off down Denmark Street to find the Travelodge and somewhere that sells sandwiches and bottled water.
I waited in the hotel room until 4:30pm before making my way to the queue down the side of the Astoria. Everyone was in good spirits, as you can imagine. A drunk and the t-shirt sellers kept us amused. The doors where supposed to open at 6:00pm but there must have been some sort of hold up as I’m sure that the queue didn’t start moving until at least twenty minutes past the hour.
The inside seemed so small, just an empty space in front of the stage. It’s more like a club than a theatre and certainly nothing like the stadiums that Nine Inch Nails are used to playing in. There was a sort of metal cage around the mixing desk. The balcony had small tables and chairs and of course another bar. I managed to get a spot that was about 5 people back from the centre of the stage. A great spot, at least that’s what I thought at the time. I was used to all the jostling and jumping around after seeing Rammstein in february.
There seemed to be some kind of technical hitch as members of the road crew were checking The Dresden Dolls equipment and seemed to be replacing a power cable. Finally, at about twenty minutes past seven The Dresden Dolls came on. Of course I had checked out their website before hand but hadn’t had a chance to listen to their music. Their setup is really simple: Amanda Palmer, plays keyboards and sings, Brian Viglione, plays drums. I was suitably impressed. Not exactly the kind of music that grabs you straight away, as there doesn’t seem to be any really catchy choruses, but after a couple of listens the music does start to sink in. I was particularly impressed with Brian’s drumming, he really hit his kit damned hard, he just seemed to be a mass of flailing arms. Amanda sang with as much venom and bile as she could muster. No one really noticed that they were playing ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath until about 30 seconds in, then everyone sang along. I wonder if anyone else noticed that she had changed the name on her keyboard from Kurzweil to KurtWeill.
The place was so small that you could see the road crew re-stringing guitars at the side of the stage during The Dresden Dolls set. Everything seemed to be crammed onto the tiny stage. Including a big bank of lights at the back. The chap that appeared to control them looked like a young Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. He had a long pony tail and of course a long beard, both silvery grey, and a NIN baseball cap on backwards. In ten years time that’s what I want to look like.
One thing that I did notice was that Trent’s microphone stand had some kind of rubber strip running down the right-hand side. I had watched a member of the road crew pressing it at certain points along it’s length while he was testing the microphone. I never did figure out what it did.
- Set List
- Love Is Not Enough
- You Know What You Are
- March Of The Pigs
- The Line Begins To Blur
- Terrible Lie
- The Collector
- Gave Up
- With Teeth
- Even Deeper
- The Hand That Feeds
- Starfuckers Inc
- Head Like A Hole
The lights dimmed again and the band walked on stage. When we could see Jeordie White everyone yelled, “Twiggy!”, including me. Even playing for A Perfect Circle and now Nine Inch Nails it will take along time before he is recognized as more than Marilyn Manson’s old side kick. Of course the biggest cheer went up for Trent Reznor. Even I couldn’t believe he was actually there and I was seeing them play England for the first time in along time. His guitar roadie passed a black Les Paul to him before he strode up to the microphone.
I knew the set list from the shows in Fresno, that they played before coming over, so I wasn’t surprised to hear two new songs to start with. I think everyone thought they were good and the crowd was bouncing up and down but being unreleased they weren’t songs we had all listened to over and over again. I wasn’t until March Of The Pigs that everyone went suitably mental. The security guys behind the barrier were already handing out cups of water that were being passed among the crowd. A huge chap in front of me kept pushing me, and the people behind me, back so that his thinner mate didn’t get crushed. At one point he started to wave to security but they mustn’t have seen him. About five minutes later he had had enough and he hauled his mate over the crowd and he was passed over peoples heads before the security grabbed him and led him away. This huge guy wanted to do the same so I helped to lift him up and over the crowd. I was a little uncomfortable to say the least. If the crowd just stayed in one place then I would have been fine for the rest of the show. Instead everyone seemed to be pushing left and right. Of course your upper body is squashed against those around you so that when you do move away from the vertical your feet have nowhere to go. I’m sure I felt as if all of us were going to fall into a huge sweaty heap at any moment. I think I stayed near the front for as long as I could. I sure didn’t want to leave the same way as the other two, over the heads of the crowd.
I think during an instrumental break in one song Trent sprayed us all with a couple of litres of water. Which was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity but, being a spectacle wearer, it fogged up both lenses. So I couldn’t move my feet, my body was moving 2 or 3 feet from the vertical in all directions and I couldn’t see. At the end of Piggy Trent came down into the pit at the front and everyone pushed forward, if such a thing was possible. At this time I started to move back. Pushing back with my feet, then turning and making my way to the bar.
Never has a cold can of lager tasted so good. I stood at the bar for a while, drinking from the can before I moved a little way into the crowd. Of course I could still see the band and was still singing my lungs out during the old songs.
The music was building up to a climax. From Hurt, Wish, the new single The Hand That Feeds, Starfuckers Inc and ending with Head Like A Hole. During that last song the entire place exploded, everyone was singing or bouncing up and down to the music. The band walked off stage, there was no way even they could top that. The stage lights went up and the road crew started to dismantle a few things on stage. I knew there wasn’t going to be an encore so I was one of the first out. Off to Sainsbury’s for some liquid refreshment, non-alcoholic, still drenched in sweat with my ears still ringing.
Concert photos by Flash Wilson