On this, Nine Inch Nails‘ first visit to Glasgow in 8 years and first time back at this venue since 2007 it would be fair to say everything about this show was intense.

Selling out in a matter of minutes, even 33 years into their career, NIN are rewarded with obsessive levels of adulation by their huge fanbase. The buzz in the streets around the beautiful art deco venue is palpable. The huge and varied crowd is made up of factions covering everything from hardcore goths, emo kids, metalheads and middle aged rock fans, all are here to pay homage to the godfather of alternative industrial rock, Trent Reznor and his oversized nails.

The atmosphere inside is extreme and you can’t help but get the feeling that whatever is about to happen is going to be immense. As the crowd chant the now obligatory ‘Here we, here we fucking go…’ you know it’s coming. Approximately 55 seconds into second track of the show, Wish, it happens –  it takes the form of a physical assault on the senses where the violence of the track is matched by a blinding, near vomit inducing white out of strobes and dry ice. The band reduced to a stop motion animation as the frequency of the strobes renders normal vision impossible. As an opening statement it’s a sensory Glasgow Kiss.

With no new music to plug the band are free to mix and match with the set list. Discipline gets its first live performance in over a decade whilst Everything gets its live debut. The rest of the set is very much a greatest hits selection with the added bonus of Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans. Highlights include the stunning use of light and shadow play during A Copy of. A 30ft high Trent stalks the stage bringing the lyrics to life – ‘I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow’. Throughout, the audience hangs off every word, chanting everything back at Reznor who has clearly warmed to the antics of the packed out crowd.

The main set reaches its climax with a double header of their biggest hits, The Hand that Feeds and staple of every indie disco, the alt rock anthem Head Like a Hole. The crowd moshes with little regard for personal wellbeing, unleashing 8 years of yearning for their NIN fix.

With much of the audience now a sweaty mess it’s a relief as the band depart for a short break before returning for an encore that starts with Reznor addressing the crowd in a heartfelt message of thanks before the hypnotic beat of Home signals a welcome change of tempo. Unsurprisingly, the evening closes out with Reznor’s personal ode to consequence and regret, Hurt.

There’s many interpretations into the song’s meaning but finding a reason to go on in spite of adversity would be the positive take which rings true especially given the tumultuous times we’re living in just now. It’s a fitting end to a show that is now physically etched into my subconscious – I’m glad it’s there.

Words: Rob Alexander
Pictures: Calum Mackintosh