As much as I’d like to say that I’m a huge Springsteen fan, I can’t really claim to know more than six or seven songs, despite his relatively huge catalogue. Mostly, I was excited to see the man onstage, where his crowd-pleasing prowess surpasses legend. Though his set started twenty minutes late and we were past uncomfortable from standing so long, I was not disappointed. The Boss took the stage to massive roars from the crowd, launching headlong into “Badlands.” Though I didn’t know the song, I knew for sure that this man is no joke. The first truly poignant moment came when Bruce stepped to the microphone to sing the chorus line, and the crowd simply took over for him. The look on his face was priceless; it betrayed even his surprise from the crowd’s enthusiasm, and the pure honesty of his expression made me realize that despite his superstardom, the Boss is a real person, without the pretentiousness that so often affects aging rockstars. The show continued with an amusing rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the epic tale of “Outlaw Pete,” and a truly inspiring performance of “Born to Run,” which again had the entire crowd singing with an excitement that I’ve rarely witnessed at any concert.
Unfortunately, I felt pressed to leave the show a couple songs early in order to head over to Which Stage, where industrial legends Nine Inch Nails were set to play at 1am. Now, I feel it’s necessary to preface this by admitting that I am biased in favor of NIN, as they have been my favorite band for a while now. I was lucky enough to start the show about twenty feet from the stage barrier, pressed into a crowd that was wild beyond any previous concert experience I’d had. This would be the third time I had seen Nine Inch Nails, the first being in Columbus on their now-legendary Lights in the Sky tour, and the second being on the Wave Goodbye tour in Denver. I was unsure if anything could surpass the Columbus show; it was incredible both musically and visually, as the light setup was a true marvel of performance technology, and the setlist was nothing short of perfect.
Despite comments suggesting otherwise, it seemed that Trent Reznor and company came admirably well-prepared for their late night set, which was to be their last in the US (until recently). The band kicked off the show on an unconventional note, opening with “Home” from their 2005 release “With Teeth.” The band then drove into slightly more expected numbers like “Terrible Lie” and “March of the Pigs.” However, the Reznor still managed to surprise the crowd with deeper cuts like the remix of “Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)” and “The Becoming,” the latter of which was a stunner for me, it being my favorite (and rarely played) Nine Inch Nails track. The show included and appearance from metal outfit Dillinger Escape Plan for “Wish,” which rocked both my and the crowd’s shit to new levels. The set concluded after about 3.5 hours with Reznor’s introspective ballad “Hurt,” which served as a fitting end to both the frighteningly intense show and a very, very long day.