After a headling slot at Pemberton on Friday night, Nine Inch Nails kicked off their North American tour with a 21st-century marriage of old-school showmanship and bleeding-edge technology on Saturday. With a crack four-piece band in tow — including NIN stage vets Robin Finck on guitar and Josh Freese on drums — an adrenalized, finely-coifed Trent Reznor tore through a two-hour set that leaned heavily on new material and included several choice classics.
As noted in the tour preview, at least half the show featured the band sandwiched between mesh LED curtains alternating evocative visuals, from falling rain to grainy static to an apocalyptic cityscape. The more obscured the band was by special effects, the more a detached, post-YouTube voyeurism haunted the performance.
About an hour in, a solid backdrop descended at the front of the stage and the band — now a four-piece, minus keyboardist Alessandro Cortini — stepped in front of it. Standing at the lip of the stage, with Reznor on vibraphone and Justin Meldal-Johnsen on upright bass, they played a 20-minute, mostly acoustic interlude of songs from NIN's recent Ghosts I-IV. It was a bold move, settling into a subdued, broken-down cabaret swing that was all atmosphere.
Reznor swung the microphone like a weapon and ran the stage like an athlete. Twice during the set he pointed out the fact that this was the "first official night of the tour" — a tour, he said, that's been ongoing for the last 15 years. He didn't want it to stop, either: After closing with "Head Like a Hole," the band returned for a half-hour encore. "Hurt" had the entire crowd singing and a few weeping; "In This Twilight," from last year's Year Zero ended the set in a downtrodden — but quintessential NIN — manner.
"March of the Pigs"
"The Great Destroyer"
"Ghosts 1" (Acoustic)
"Ghosts 25" (Acoustic)
"Ghosts 19" (Acoustic)
"The Big Come Down"
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like a Hole"
"The Beginning of the End"
"The Good Soldiers"
"In This Twilight"
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