Review

Nine Inch Nails 

O2 Academy

*****

It has been some 35 years since Trent Reznor was a leather jacketed keyboard player with the 80s pop combo Slam Bamboo - happily looking out of place crooning backing vocals to the cheesiest of synth heavy tunes.

But even then the dark destroyer of industrial synth rock was planning a whole new environment for himself under the Nine Inch Nails moniker and a 1989 debut album in Pretty Hate Machine that has to go down as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

There has always been more to Reznor than this epic album that took the darkest synth pop of Depeche Mode and smothered it in blood.

Wind forward 33 years and we are here, in Glasgow, for the opening gig of a UK headline tour that exposes all the tenderness, brutality, lovesickness and betrayal that has articulated Reznor's flight of ferocious fantasy over 11 albums and three EPs most of which get an airing here.

HeraldScotland:

 

Then (inset) while with Slam Bamboo, and now at the O2 Academy

While there are the fretboard-thrashing beasts, of which Wish  and Survivalism were just two exhilirating thrill rides of face-melting guitar riffs and skyscraping synth scripts, there has been no pinning Reznor down to noise for noise pop's sake.

And this set - which is a world away from the industrial 'greatest hits' parade that the band have been parading in the US exposes just how diverse musically the multi-instrumentalist actually is.

And at 57 years young, can Reznor really continue to scream, "I'd rather die than give you control", and really mean it?

Well, if not, he deserves an acting Oscar to go along with his Academy Awards for Best Original Score for The Social Network and Soul.

The o2 Academy, which had long been sold out for this return to Scotland after four years, never looked so packed - and in a fog of dry ice (of course) Reznor and his band blast into Year Zero's The Beginning of the End.

From there the darkness is never so black, but the tempo is ever changing and the instrumentation continuously shape-shifting, while the setlist remains ever unpredictable.

If fans were expecting favourites like  Sin or Closer, well they would be disappointed.

Reznor introduced two songs from his burgeoning back-catalogue that it is understood haven't been played for 13 years including Discipline from their seventh studio album, The Slip and a rapturous Down In It, the band's debut single from Pretty Hate Machine.

There was even time to bring a song played live for the first time,  Everything from the eighth studio album Hesitation Marks from 2013.

Of the less well known offerings the manic Copy of A, Hesitation Marks was an undoubted highlight.

HeraldScotland:

The Christianity-confronting Heresy which 28 years ago might have felt shocking, in Glasgow became a mass singalong of, "God is dead, and no-one cares, if there is a hell, i'll see you there". People were clearly wanting some Satan.

After a rip-roaring The Hand that Feeds and the classic Head Like A Hole ending the pre-encore menu, Reznor had a question: "What is it you are all singing".

Cue the audience singing the Glasgow favourite: "Here we, here we, here we f***ing go."

The American looks confused and says he needs a translator.

But being Glasgow, it had to be sung again, and louder. The penny drops.

"I thought you were singing you're a f***ing c**t," Reznor rasps.

The sign off here shows that beneath the exterior of artful hard-faced angst rock, there also beats the heart of a good old fashioned tunesmith.

In Glasgow it is Hurt, that remains arguably even more bitter and twisted by being that bit quieter. It was enough to prick up the ears of late country legend Johnny Cash who covered it.

Reznor has probably sung this thousands of times, but it sounded as sincere as if he was singing it for the first time. And when he bellows, "you could have it all, my empire of dirt" it is both thrilling and deeply emotional.