Nine Inch Nails‘ appearance on Austin City Limits marks two milestones: The show is the prelude for the long-running concert TV series’ 40th year, and stands as the industrial-rock group’s longest televised appearance in two-and-a-half decades. Rolling Stone premiered the group’s ACL performance of a song that’s just as old as the band – “Sanctified,” from their 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine – earlier this month, and now their rendition of the Year Zero track “Survivalism” and the Hesitation Marks song “Satellite” have made it online.
“Survivalism” gets the studio audience undulating quickly, thanks to its wobbling bass, flashing spotlights and already sweaty frontman Trent Reznor’s mic-clutched pogo dancing. Backup singers Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson highlight the song’s Bowie-gone-punk tendencies. Meanwhile, “Satellite” starts off more sublimely with a Morse Code blip and an electro-rock drumbeat – and more of Reznor’s mic-stand bobbling. It’s a slow burner, but the audience looks entranced throughout.
In total, the group played an hour’s worth of music – including the Hesitation Marks song “Came Back Haunted,” which came online in February. In a comically short statement – or maybe “understatement” is a bette word – Reznor said, ” We’ve waited a long time to do anything like this.” ACL executive producer Terry Lickona however was more redolent in the elation he feels about having the band on the show: “We never thought we’d see the day when Nine Inch Nails would set foot on the ACL stage,” he said. “I mean, they never did television for 25 years! I came away from this show having the greatest respect for Trent Reznor. He’s one of the most focused, intense and creative artists I’ve ever worked with.”