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N.I.N.J.A. Tour 2009

June 3rd, 2009

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According to Wikipedia, a ninja is a warrior specially trained in a variety of unorthodox arts of war, including assassination, illusion, espionage, and various martial arts. Well, last night’s N.I.N.J.A. show at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre delivered just that – complete with black suits and all (albeit leather)!

Nine Inch Nails KILLED IT right from opener “Terrible Lie”. This time around, Trent’s rock army took centre stage while spectacular lights took a back seat. If anyone caught them on their last tour, you’ll know what I’m talking about (craziest light show ever, which sent me into some fantastic epileptic-like shock). Playing to a nearly full-house, NIN’s set fit perfectly into the oncoming dusk and eerily timed icy wind from Lake Ontario. With seemingly endless energy, front man Trent Reznor dominated the stage while seamlessly switching from guitar to keyboard to mic to destroyer (you know you’re at a rock show when the roadies are on stage as much as the band). Trent’s latest addition to the NIN team, Ilan Rubin on drums, (think Animal from the Muppets) proved he could hold his own amidst the hurricane that is Reznor.

Looking across the crowd, you got a full appreciation for the success and longevity of all things Trent. NIN, in one form or another, has been around for over 20 years, and still holds a tight grip on their fans today, as they did way back when. From sprouting cotton-heads to the barely-legals, fans seemed to span generations. And with a catalog that spans 8 major and 4 remix albums, and countless singles and B-sides, fans are always guaranteed something new at every show. This time it was Trent’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” collaboration with Bowie that stole the show. Before the tour, Trent admitted to never playing it live before, and much to the delight of devotees everywhere he has resurrected the track. Maybe next time we’ll see Ziggy Stardust join him on stage for it!

Despite an outdoor gig in mid-twilight, NIN looked and sounded amazing. The best example of the extraordinary ambience was witnessed during one of NIN’s biggest hits: “Hurt”. A sea of actual lighters (ya, like real fire people) magically appeared as far as the eye could see, during the four and a half minute sing-a-long. Not cells … good ol’ wick-n-flame. How very 1992.

Speaking of Back to the Future, after a short break (recess!), recently reunited fellow 90s rock gods Jane’s Addiction took the stage by storm. Their almost 90 minute set began with a wild montage of busty pinups and movie clips (a la River Wild and Natural Born Killers) then crept into “Three Day”s – a hearty and lengthy tune I never would have guessed to be their opening number. Donned in a corset the way only he can, Perry Farrell pranced and swooned and gyrated with glee, while the ageless Dave Navarro dominated the guitar (honestly, I want whatever it is he’s taking). It was the return of bassist Eric Avery that seemed to have all the groupies gossiping though – as he effortlessly leapt from one solid tune to another, and kept pace with his fellow scene-stealers.

Despite claiming to now be all grown’d up and drug-free, the Jane’s boys took us on one helluva trip … pulling out songs from both Nothings Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. Never leading fans too far out to sea, Jane’s set went full steam ahead into such fan faves as “Been Caught Stealing” and “Pigs In Zen”, right through to lesser-knowns like Mountain Song and Ocean Size.

1991 or 2009 – no matter … the best weapon these NINJAs have is time. And it’s been oh so kind.

(Photos by Mark Swierszcz)

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