For the second time in a week, Nine Inch Nails played a festival headline slot that was initially intended for Foo Fighters. At both last weekend’s Welcome to Rockville and Friday’s Boston Calling kick off, Trent Reznor and co. served as last-minute replacements after the tragic loss of Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins.
Festivals being forced to find fill-ins for canceled acts isn’t the rarest of things, but the circumstances around NIN adding these dates to their first tour in four years comes from uniquely sad circumstances. About an hour into their Boston Calling set, Reznor addressed the situation in a heartfelt statement from the stage.
“We’re very happy to be here with you tonight and share this time with you,” he said. “And we’re very sorry for the conditions that led to us being here, with our friends Foo Fighters. Our hearts go out to them.”
This was the only direct mention made about Hawkins; there was no Foo Fighters cover added to the set (nor was there one at Rockville), nor was there a tribute video or message displayed on the big screens. Instead, Reznor reflected on how even in the darkest of times, music serves as a refuge, a “thing that kept me going, that gave me a reason to not feel like a piece of shit, to make me feel like I wasn’t alone all the time.”
Expressing his apparently genuine surprise that they drew such a huge crowd even as a replacement headliner, Reznor said, “That’s not some bullshit line — that’s the truth. We really appreciate it.” Then he said this:
“I think the thing that I have — either it’s getting old, whatever happened with this COVID, or this relentless stream of never-ending bad news that seems to be happening constantly: fucking people dying, guns, and fucking disease, and war. Man, it’s made me very grateful for moments that really fucking kick ass. We’re grateful to be here with you tonight.”