Jane's Addiction/Nine Inch Nails | Manchester Arena

Manchester Arena

This is as close as 2009 gets to 1991 – two alternative titans playing together for the first time since that year's Lollapalooza tour, and a massive audience dressed in black. The reappearance of Jane's Addiction's classic lineup – featuring bassist Eric Avery for the first time in 18 years – adds to the nostalgia for a time when these two US groups signposted rock's future.

Jane's Addiction still sound both brutal and sensual, Avery's bass rumbles like an articulated lorry, and, at a wiry 50, Perry Farrell's schtick is still hilarious. "Everybody shake your maracas," he says, demonstrating how, in X-rated detail. But their newer hooks don't tickle the bits touched by golden oldie Been Caught Stealing.

This is Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor's "wave goodbye" to touring – perhaps so the very muscular 44-year-old can now spend all his time in the gym. He's clearly more rounded today than the disturbed individual who recorded Pretty Hate Machine and lived in the house that hosted the Manson killings. Now, he says really disturbing things like "Thank you." However, at full pelt, Nine Inch Nails are the closest rock gets to a Nuremberg rally: black uniforms, massed arms in the air and a crowd being shouted at by a charismatic and not overly tall orator.

Reznor's industrial-rock blitzkriegs – Head Like a Hole and Something Real – remain awesome. But an uneven set loses impact with soundtracky blind avenues, though there are plenty of glimpses of Reznor's vast influence on music. Hurt – with its lyric "Everyone I know goes away in the end" – hasn't sounded such a powerful goodbye since Johnny Cash memorably covered it. Presumably with that in mind, Reznor has chosen the perfect moment to get out.

Nine Inch Nails are at the Sonisphere festival, Knebworth on 2 August. Details: uk.sonispherefestivals.com


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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