Every inch of Reznor's soul bared as Belfast is given a sonic treat to savour
You have to hand it to them – the Belsonic bookers really pulled it out of the bag this time.
Four years after declaring that Nine Inch Nails were finished as a live entity, Trent Reznor's industrial revue is back, and last night Belfast bore witness to their only Irish show of the tour, days before they play the main stage at Reading and Leeds to a large multiple of the 5,000 that managed to snare tickets for Custom House Square.
Looking around the crowd, it was as if the metal kids that hang around City Hall had staged a reunion, 20 years on – black-clad 30 and 40-somethings, most of them ignoring the sacred 'don't wear the T-shirt of the band you've come to see' rule.
But that's a measure of the level of devotion that Reznor has inspired over more than 20 years of industrial violence, avant-garde experimentation and brutally introspective lyricism.
There was plenty of local interest, too.
Opening proceedings in the late August sunshine were Little Matador, which is proof of what Snow Patrol's Nathan Connolly has been up to during a quiet year for the Bangor balladeers.
Connolly has form in the realm of dirty guitar noise – he served a teenage apprenticeship in Throat before joining Snow Patrol – and the return to rock rather suits him.
Joined by a band featuring Gavin Fox (Turn, Idlewild) and Dave Magee (LaFaro) and dressed in uniform black, the new band's set offered a pleasing amount of guitar crunch and no little melody. Connolly shares a band with Gary Lightbody, after all.
Given the bleak themes that dominate in Nine Inch Nails' work, the celebratory instrumental rock of And So I Watch You From Afar was potentially a jarring choice as main support – their latest album All Hail Bright Futures could scarcely be further in tone from the existential horror of The Downward Spiral if it tried.
But if there's one thing you can guarantee from the North Coast band, it's a proper rock show.
They come out fast and ferocious with the likes of Big Thinks Do Remarkable and Gangs, but when they prioritise grooves they hit hardest.
The halfstep stomp of Search:Party:Animal drips with attitude and the closing The Voiceless – complete with suitably dramatic downpour – is nothing short of majestic. Point made.
"It's good to finally get here," said Reznor during a scintillating March Of The Pigs.
"Thanks for sticking around."
Fittingly, given the 25-odd year delay, Nine Inch Nails delivered a career-spanning set full of fan favourites.
NIN have covered a great deal of sonic ground in their time, bringing together the worlds of electronica and metal like few before them.
Sinister to triumphant, despairing to violent, erotic to graceful, every facet of Nine Inch Nails' long career – of Trent Reznor's psyche – was on display last night.