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Nine Inch Nails at the Eden Project: what happened when Trent and co played the world's biggest greenhouse

With heatwaves, thunderstorms and sunset rainbows, NIN's return to the UK was an epic of blockbuster proportions

NIN
(Image: © Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images)

Trent Reznor is a genius. Granted, Nine Inch Nails fans have known that for over 30 years, but the fact Reznor has now wracked up Oscar and Grammy wins is testament to just how widely recognised his songwriting and compositional talents are (and presumably leaves the door open for his inevitable turn towards musical theatre so he can bag a Tony down the line). 

It also explains why thousands of goths descended on rural Cornwall to see Nine Inch Nails perform on the hottest day of the year. Transported to the Eden Project for their first UK shows in four years, Reznor's genius was in no question as the band pulled out two very different sets - and experiences - across the weekend.

On Friday, a scorching summer rave complete with hits galore, NIN pulling out all the stops to make Cornwall the rave central of the UK if for one night only. On Saturday, a rain-soaked but no less spectacular set complete with sunset rainbows, deep cuts and the kind of emotional gravitas that comes from bearing your soul without reservation for over 30 years. 

Kicking off Friday with The Fragile opener Somewhat Damaged (and track 2 The Day The World Went Away), NIN burst into life as the industrial behemoth we've come to know and love, all flashing lights and blaring basslines that trigger some primordial instinct to go buck-wild.

One of the most impressive facets of the current iteration of Nine Inch Nails is their capacity to reinvision classic tracks - songs like Mr. Self Destruction which on record are buried beneath abrasive industrial trickery were reinvented as snarl-along anthems, the crowd howling out "I take you where you want to go/I give you all you need to know" with as much fervour as they afford later hits March Of The Pigs or Closer.


Dynamism was the order of the day(s) however, and as much as the crowd raved to tunes like Heresy or Wish, its the emotional gravitas of the quieter, gentler moments that made the shows so magical. Rarities like Love Is Not Enough (played for the first time since 2008), La Mer and Happiness In Slavery (not played in the UK for almost 30 years) are met with as much enthusiasm as mega-hits like Piggy or Head Like A Hole while piano-led instrumental The Frail and minimalist This Isn't The Place were utterly captivating. 

Reznor is one of those rare, otherworldy presences that commands total attention even with minimal contact with the crowd. On Friday, a crack about the sun ("does it ever go down? I feel so exposed") is about as close to humanising as we get, while on Saturday he drew attention to spectacular scenes in the sky as the clouds turn bubblegum pink and a rainbow formed perfectly against the sunset.

Instead of monologues or banter, Reznor let his art do all the talking. A surprise sax solo intro for God Break Down The Door provided extra evidence of his musical talent, while a short, poignant tribute to "one of [his] icons" before offering up I'm Afraid Of Americans and straight-up David Bowie cover Fashion felt extra poignant on the week the legendary Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust turned 50

Closing on the colossal one-two of March Of The Pigs and Hurt, NIN rounded out their first night at the Eden Project with an affirmation of just how massive the tunes in their bank are, the whole crowd united in rapture as the blaring closing notes of Hurt rang out. 

Switch-ups between the setlists on both nights kept things fresh, the few repeats shuffled around the set so that the experiences between both nights remained utterly distinct. Where Friday was marked by scorching sun, Saturday began with thunderstorms and downpours, giving way to an almost ethereal sunset before the rain hit again. While it may have dampened the bodies, spirits were still high as the crowd danced and raved to the likes of Less Than, Only and The Hand That Feeds

It's testament to just how varied and malleable Nine Inch Nails' discography is that the band can not only pull out two almost entirely different sets across two days, but offer up completely different experiences. Come rain or shine though, the one consistent fact is that NIN offer a live spectacle unlike just about anything else, each gig an inimitable experience that ensures that, contrary to the song title, every day is in fact not exactly the same. 

Nine Inch Nails play London and Manchester this week.

Metal Hammer line break

Nine Inch Nails setlist, Eden Project Friday 17 June

  • Somewhat Damaged
  • The Day The World Went Away
  • Mr. Self Destruct
  • Piggy
  • Heresy
  • The Frail
  • Love Is Not Enough
  • Wish
  • The Lovers
  • The Perfect Drug
  • Shit Mirror
  • Ahead Of Ourselves
  • God Break Down The Door
  • Closer
  • Copy Of A
  • I'm Afraid Of Americans
  • Fashion
  • Down In It
  • Gave Up
  • HeadLike A Hole
  • Everything
  • March Of The Pigs
  • Hurt

Nine Inch Nails setlist, Eden Project Saturday 18 June

  • The Beginning Of The End
  • Wish
  • Letting You
  • Discipline
  • March Of The Pigs
  • This Isn't The Place
  • Sanctified
  • Reptile
  • La Mer
  • Less Than
  • The Line Begins To Blur
  • Burn
  • Echoplex
  • Survivalism
  • Every Day Is Exactly The Same
  • Only
  • The Hand That Feeds
  • Head Like A Hole
  • Help Me I Am In Hell
  • Happiness In Slavery
  • And All That Could Have Been
  • Hurt

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.