Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age Close Out Australia Trek: Live Review

Scott Legato/FilmMagic
Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs during Lollapalooza 2013 at Grant Park on August 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

It’s a rare spectacle when Nine Inch Nails go on as anyone’s support act. That happened Monday night in Brisbane.

Trent Reznor’s industrial heavyweights opened at the top end of the bill, with Queens of the Stone Age closing-out the concert. It’s not to say NIN has lost popularity Down Under to Josh Homme’s California rockers. It’s just a case of luck. On each night of this co-headlining tour, the running order is decided by the toss of a coin.

Reznor, Homme and their not-so-merry men brought a collective heaviness to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for the final date of an Australian trek that’s already visited Sydney, Newcastle, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne and on Wednesday heads to New Zealand for three dates (Brody Dalle, a homegrown talent who is Homme’s partner, is the first act on stage each night).  

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One fan was so eager, she arrived at the show with her baby strapped to her body. And, yes, the bub was wearing earmuffs.

The mood darkened at around 7:45 p.m., when Alessandro Cortini stood alone on stage and tinkered with his keyboard. It took a few moments for the die-hards to realize they were listening to the cinematic scene-setter “A Warm Place”. With the house lights still up, and thousands yet to make it to their seats, this instrumental track from the 1994 masterwork “The Downward Spiral” filled the room. When Reznor grabbed the mic to tear into “Somewhat Damaged,” the arena was no more than two-thirds full. Not for long.

NIN brought a full-scale assault, as they launched into “Me, I'm Not”  and “Survivalism.” “March of the Pigs” was an early crowd-pleaser. Soon after, “Piggy” had the black t-shirted masses in a sweaty mess. Reznor knows his way to his fans’ hearts -- through the “Downward Spiral.”  Each time Reznor and co whipped out a number from his most iconic album, the audience roared in appreciation.

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Reznor has mellowed with age, that's clear. His brutal performance for the Alternative Nation festival here in 1995 is still talked about by those lucky enough to witness it. As “Terrible Lie” came to a stop, Reznor gave fans a peek at the angry old days when he launched his guitar through the air. There was no messing about between songs -- certainly, no "hello Brisbane," or "greetings Queensland." And definitely no “G'day Australia.” Reznor doesn't do banter.

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What Reznor does do is smash out the classics. “Pretty Hate Machine’s” “Head like a Hole” still pack a wallop. There's the peerlessly-brutal “Wish” from “Broken”. And there were moments when NIN’s stagecraft marches over into clubland. On “Copy of A” -- a recent work -- fans were indulged with strobes, smoke machines and pulsating electronic beats. 

NIN has a remarkably deep well. It’s so deep, there was sadly no room in the set for “Closer,” or “The Fragile"'s "We're in This Together," or even "Came Back Haunted" from NIN’s 2013 album "Hesitation Marks." No doubt, Reznor was cognisant that there remained another big shot to come. He delivered the coup de grace when he returned to stage for an encore of “Hurt,” surely Reznor’s career-defining track.

If NIN’s meaty performance was a hard act to follow, Queens of the Stone Age were up to the challenge. Like seasoned pros, QOTSA launched into a familiar, nuggety number  -- “You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire,” the opener from the sublime 2002 album “Songs for the Deaf.” They turned it up a notch as they paced into “No One Knows.”

Homme looked like the sort of character who you wouldn’t want to mess with (he’s 6’4” and solid). And he makes music to back that up. The band played a set that was both cerebral and menacing, as they cranked through "Burn the Witch," "Smooth Sailing," "Go With the Flow."

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Tonight, Homme was in a much chattier mood than his counterpart in NIN. He roused the girls in the crowd to help with the chorus for “Make It Wit Chu”. He even introduced his band mates. Homme’s movements on stage were compact, but he’s his own boss. At one point, he lit up a cigarette (damn the rules). And he told-off security, who were trying to break-up a shoulder ride near the front. "Hey security, don't tell the kids what to do. They know what to do," he argued. "They paid for the show. If they want to go on someone's shoulders, that's cool. So let's get fucking loose."

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Homme and his own gang managed to wind things down without fuss. QOTSA’s party trick “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” was an encore tonight. It’s a song that neatly explains what this band is about; it's brazen and heavy, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and your parents definitely wouldn’t approve.

It's unfair to pick a winner from this heavyweight bout, this Clash of the Titans. But tonight in Brisbane, it's Queens of the Stone Age... by a guitar pick.

The baby is spotted in the crowd near the end, fast asleep. She's the only one. 

Nine Inch Nails setlist: 
1. "A Warm Place" 
2. "Somewhat Damaged" 
3. "Me, I'm Not" 
4. "Survivalism" 
5. "March of the Pigs" 
6. "Piggy" 
7. "Sanctified" 
8. "Terrible Lie" 
9. "Disappointed" 
10. "Hand Covers Bruise" 
11. "Beside You in Time" 
12. "Copy of A" 
13. "The Great Destroyer" 
14. "Gave Up" 
15. "Wish" 
16. "The Hand That Feeds" 
17. "Head Like a Hole" 
18. "Hurt" 
Queens of the Stone Age setlist:
1. "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire" 
2. "No One Knows" 
3. "My God Is the Sun" 
4. "Burn the Witch" 
5. "Smooth Sailing" 
6. "…Like Clockwork" 
7. "If I Had a Tail" 
8. "Fairweather Friends" 
9. "Little Sister" 
10. "Make It Wit Chu" 
11. "Sick, Sick, Sick 
12. "Better Living Through Chemistry" 
13. "Go With the Flow" 
14. "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" 
15. "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" 
16. "A Song for the Dead" 


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