I was excited for the show not only because the music was bound to be fantastic, but also for the feeling of connectedness I associated with Nine Inch Nails. In my younger days, NIN was the band that united the groups that fell outside the 2 standard deviations on the "normal" bell curve: the artists, the slackers, the gays, the skids. It was the music of the disenfranchised, and back then it made me feel like I was part of something bigger - at least, a little bit bigger. Then again, when I was in High School, never in a million years would I have imagined a white NIN shirt with a flower on it...
I met Ninja out front of the Coliseum, and he told me that Jago was coming along as well, which surprised me because he'd told me earlier that he didn't really like NIN. The three of us finally met up a half-hour later, booked it into the building, and got to our seats. Death From Above 1979 had been playing for about 15 minutes or so, and their set was half-over, but I was really excited to see them. Unfortunately, they didn't seem excited to be there; their songs were pretty short and to the point, and any stage banter was rather curt. I can't say I blame them too much: the venue's not really set up for a two-piece rock band where the forward-moving melody line is carried along by the bass guitar. They did their best, and the crowd was appreciative, but I think they would be much better in a smaller venue. Sadly, Susie, no claw marks for yours truly.
Before Queens of the Stone Age started, two young girls (estimated ages 16-22) sat down in the seats in front of us, giggling and sipping their beer. When the lights came down and QOTSA took the stage, they began to smoke a great deal of marijuana. Boldly and blatantly, blowing the smoke upwards in huge clouds. It was the most second-hand pot smoke I'd ever encountered during a concert, and I got a second-hand buzz for the entire set. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because I've seen the stoner rock label slapped on them a time or two before, even if it is undeserved. Anyhow, the band was rocking the stage hard and fast, and then...Crappy Audience Moment #1 happened. Someone in the crowd shouted out "Get off the stage!", and Josh Homme heard it. Luckily, the man is fairly quick on the uptake, and promptly ripped the guy a new asshole. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist of it was:
"Who just yelled out 'Get off the stage!'? It was you? Yeah? Where's your band, buddy? Yeah, that's what I thought. We're here because Trent called us up, asked us to be here, for you, to play for you." (Crowd cheers.) "See, if I'm at a show, and I don't like the band, I just say 'Wow, I'm just not into it', and then I leave and come back when they're done. I don't call myself out to the lead singer who has a fuckin' P.A. at his disposal. So why don't you just go out to the parking lot and suck some dick like we know you were going to anyways, and then come back later? You little bitch. This next song is dedicated to you, because it's called 'Little Bitch'."
Let this be a lesson to all would-be hecklers: do not mess with Queens of the Stone Age. They will mess you up. Anyhow, the band put on a spectacular show, and I'm now fully convinced I need to see them headline a concert, so I can hear more of their music.
Having already screamed myself 1/4-hoarse for QOTSA, I eagerly awaited the arrival of NIN to the stage, which had been draped in white curtains while they set up the stage. Just after clouds of stage smoke began to billow out, the lights dimmed and the lights began to flash behind the curtains, casting distorted shadows of the drum kit, keyboards, and guitarists on the white curtains as the music played. This was the reason we were all here, to see Nine Inch Nails, but I didn't get into it initially. I was thrown off by the dimmed lights and lack of banter between every single song: song finishes, fade to black, silence for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, song starts, repeat. The music was good, but it wasn't that much different than if I had just slipped a disc into the stereo and cranked it up. But by the fourth song, I was dancing, singing, and emphatically gesturing like a madman, and I was finally feeling the concert.
Jut in time for Crappy Audience Moment #2 to almost ruin everything. About halfway through the show, Trent stepped forward and announced that he and the band had been "pleasantly surprised by Canada", to which the crowd let out a huge cheer. He then said that the barricade at the front of the stage needed to be repaired because people were being pushed up against it, and asked the crowd on the floor to move 2 feet back so they could fix it, give the people at the front some water, and the show could continue. AND THEN THE CROWD BOOED. Let me repeat: the crowd booed the man they had come to see, the man who had not one minute ago had said he was really happy with the reception he was getting, not because he was putting on a bad show, but because he was stopping the show due to concern for the health and security of the people at the front of the stage. I was furious. I couldn't believe it. Three minutes passed, and from my vantage point in the stands, it looked like nobody moved. So someone else came on the stage and said "Look, we really want to keep playing for you guys, but you need to move back," and they booed him too. Six minutes or so, and finally they got it fixed and threw some water and juice out to the guys on the floor.
Thankfully, the band knocked the rest of the set out of the park. I was so happy I forgot how pissed off I was less than five minutes before. I was completely absorbed by it all: the music, the lights, and the nature documentary/anti-war film they played when they lowered the white curtains again. My favourite part of the whole show was when Trent played "Hurt" alone with his keyboard at the front of the stage, alone in the spotlight, and the crowd pulled out their lighters. Typically, that kind of behaviour strikes me as ridiculous, but for one glorious moment, he looked like he was playing his music suspended in midair, surrounded by the stars. It was one of the best concert moments of my life.
Overall, I rather enjoyed the show, but its place in the Top 10 Concert Moments was denied thanks to a crappy audience. The crowd can make or break a performance, and although they didn't completely destroy my concert experience, they marred it with their foolishness and disrespect. Then again, maybe I'm just getting old.