The one word heard most at the Boston Calling Music Festival throughout Memorial Day Weekend was “cursed.” That was the only phrase to adequately describe all the lineup adjustments, threatening weather and last-minute changes made to an event put on for the first time since 2019. Somehow, organizers pulled it off triumphantly, due in no small part to headliners Metallica and Nine Inch Nails.
Day one on Friday (5/27) boasted arguably the best weather across the three days. Both the Struts and Cheap Trick played daytime sets, with an enthusiastic Paris Jackson, who performed earlier, joining the latter on backing vocals for the hit “Surrender.” And while a strong contingent of early aughts nostalgists went to get their pop-punk on with Avril Lavigne as the sun went down, a larger grouping gathered to hunker down for the best spot to see Nine Inch Nails.
Just as the industrial rock outfit were about to take the stage, word started to spread that the next night’s headliners, the Strokes, had to cancel due to a member of the band testing positive for Covid.
This marked the latest in a long line of lineup adjustments for the fest. Boston Calling’s 2020 lineup boasted Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine as headliners alongside the Foos. The pandemic put the kibosh on those plans, and its continued effects forced Boston Calling to cancel its 2021 edition as well. Rage Against the Machine and Foo Fighters were initially poised to return in 2022, but the former pulled out in January, while the latter canceled all performance plans following the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins.
As the Strokes became the latest act to fall from the lineup, rumors circulated that Nine Inch Nails were going to save the day by returning for a second night on Saturday. Soon, it would be confirmed.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re here tomorrow night,” Trent Reznor announced about an hour into NIN’s Friday set. The frontman also touched on how humbled he was by the crowd turnout and sent love to the Foo Fighters.
NIN started strong on opening night with “Somewhat Damaged” and “Wish,” before leaning heavily on fan favorite The Downward Spiral with songs like “Piggy,” “Hersey” and “March of the Pigs,” as well as the hits “Closer” and “Hurt.” But the question remained, what would Reznor do for the second night to change it up?
Watch Nine Inch Nails Full Second Set From Boston Calling 2022
Most of the hardcore Nine Inch Nails fans likely did a single day and were suddenly left trying to score tickets for the next night. Strokes fans were going to be bummed out no matter what. And concertgoers who had a three-day pass would be uninterested in a repeated setlist 24 hours later. As such, Reznor was left with carte blanche to do whatever he chose. But that second set almost didn’t happen.
Thunderstorms were scheduled to roll through all afternoon on day two of Boston Calling, and some surmised it might be enough to cancel the whole day. Mid-afternoon, as the skies turned black and rain began to fall, the dreaded announcement came over the PA system for all attendees to evacuate the grounds. Many crowded under Harvard Stadium on a concourse that held about 15,000 people. Others decamped to the university’s indoor track.
Following a two-hour delay, the fest opened back up as the forecast had changed dramatically and the inclement weather shifted away from the site. A few local acts had their sets cut, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were forced to bow out due to a Covid case in their ranks and the stage was set for Nine Inch Nails take two.
The set list had clearly been given quite a bit of thought, evident in the frenetic opener of “Mr. Self Destruct” coupled with a trio of tracks from the 1999 double album opus The Fragile in “The Day the World Went Away,” “The Frail” and “The Wretched.” Elsewhere, the running order was full of deep cuts like “Every Day is Exactly the Same,” “And All That Could Have Been” and a cover of David Bowie’s “Fashion.”
“It’s probably a good time to mention we are not the Strokes, if you haven’t picked up on that yet…but we’re happy to be here; thanks for putting up with us,” Reznor said midway through the set. “We’re like a guest that wasn’t invited here in the first place, now you can’t fuckin’ get rid of us.”
The frontman further endeared himself to the locals present when he talked about his first time in “a real studio” at the long shuttered Syncro Sound, which was owned by the Cars. Reznor worked on a few of the compositions that would end up on his Nine Inch Nails debut, Pretty Hate Machine, including the song he then went into, “Terrible Lie,” which has attained a deep cut position in recent years.
Day three of Boston Calling was by far the most packed with Weezer and Metallica closing out the weekend. Rivers Cuomo and Co. came out to the strains of Van Halen’s “Jump,” riling up an already excited crowd. Opening with “Hash Pipe,” Weezer dropped hit after hit with six of them coming from their eponymous 1994 debut, commonly referred to as the Blue Album.
The crowd had swelled to unable-to-move status at that point as everyone was jockeying for the best vantage point to see Metallica. Fresh off BottleRock in Napa Valley just two nights prior, the metal titans served up a satisfying balance of old school bangers like “Ride the Lightning,” “Whiplash” and “Battery” and played five off the Black Album, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, including the encore of “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.”
In one of the evening’s light-hearted moments, guitarist Kirk Hammett bungled the intro to the former song after teasing a snippet of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” He jokingly splayed himself out on the stage before getting up and apologizing as the weekend neared its end.
“Sorry guys, you’re so kick-ass,” the rocker declared. “I got distracted by how kick-ass you are.”
Watch Kirk Hammett Flub the Intro to ‘Nothing Else Matters’ at Boston Calling 2022