Trent Reznor came to Los Angeles to end it all. Two decades after releasing his first Nine Inch Nails album, Reznor brought the band's life as a touring act to a close Thursday with a sweeping three-hour concert at the Wiltern Theater, erupting with sounds intense and emotional from throughout his career for a full house of more than 2,200 fans.
He ended NIN at full power, not nostalgic but fully engaged, and still an important contemporary act long after the band's '90s breakout. Reznor led guitarist Robin Finck, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and drummer Ilan Rubin through a 38-song set that mingled their best-known work with songs from The Slip, released in May as a free download, returning the band to the brooding, ambitious sounds explored to epic proportions on 1999's The Fragile.
"This is it," Reznor said early in the set, and added during the night's third encore: "We're not going to tour anymore as Nine Inch Nails, but we're all still going to be making music."
The big room was already sweltering and filled with fog by the time the lights went down and Reznor stepped up to the microphone, lunging forward and clutching his mike stand as desperately as ever for "Somewhat Damaged." He raged across the layers of industrial noise and melody: "Poisoned to my rotten core / Too fucked up to care anymore!"
There was no "Closer," but the night delivered a generous selection from the range of NIN's recorded work. Songs raged and flowed from one to the next as if from a single piece of music, a consistent vision across decades holding the night together. Fans shouted along to lyrics of loathing and release during "March of the Pigs," and Reznor fell to one knee, rising with arms wide open to sing the song's sudden moment of melodic clarity amid the noise: "Now, doesn't that make you feel better?"
The Wiltern concert came at the end of NIN's "Wave Goodbye" tour and its concluding series of farewell gigs in Los Angeles, where Reznor now lives after a dozen years in New Orleans. He brought several guests onstage for the occasion, beginning with pianist Mike Garson, known for his '70s work with David Bowie and later with NIN on The Fragile. He stayed for several songs, including a solo instrumental run on "Down in the Park."
He was followed by electronic pioneer Gary Numan, a profound influence on Reznor from his days growing up in "a cornfield in Pennsylvania." They did three songs together, with Numan as lead vocalist on a searing "Metal" and "I Die: You Die." Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro unfurled a quick, furious solo on "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)."
During the second of NIN's three encores, the band was joined onstage by members of Dillinger Escape Plan, who share Reznor's appetite for chaos and destruction, smashing instruments and nearly teetering off the stage during "Mr. Self Destruct." Near the end, things quieted down for a moment as Reznor sang a haunted, sorrowful "Hurt" to Finck's acoustic guitar, reinventing a career-defining standard of pain and disgust for a live audience desperate to hear it one last time.
"March of the Pigs"
"Something I Can Never Have"
"Just Like You Imagined" (with Mike Garson)
"La Mer" (with Mike Garson)
"Eraser" (with Mike Garson)
"The Becoming" (with Mike Garson)
"Down in the Park" (instrumental piano by Mike Garson)
"Down in the Park" (with Gary Numan)
"Metal" (with Gary Numan)
"I Die: You Die" (with Gary Numan)
"Down In It"
"The Hand That Feeds"
"Head Like a Hole"
"Me, I'm Not" (with Atticus Ross)
"The Warning"/"Sign" (with Dave Navarro)
Second encore (with Dillinger Escape Plan):
"Mr. Self Destruct"
"The Good Soldier"
"The Day the World Went Away"
"In This Twilight"
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