Concert Review: Nine Inch Nails ACL Taping: Trent Reznor’s NIN lights up Austin City Limits
Last night I was one of the lucky few who had a chance to catch Nine Inch Nails at their taping for an upcoming episode for Austin City Limits.
Attendees were only admitted through online contest giveaways (over 17,000 people entered the contest).
I knew I’d found the right place when there was a snaky line of people all dressed in black.
Austin City Limits has been on the air since 1976 (it’s now on its 39th season). Initially it was devoted to Texas country acts, but ever since the inception of the ACL Festival, the show has allowed for more rock acts, although of the mellower variety.
Which is what made last night’s show such an exciting proposition as Nine Inch Nails are by the far the most aggressive act to have appeared on the show.
This was not lost on the show’s staff. Series producer Terry Lickona said ; I can’t believe what I’m about to announce, but please welcome Nine Inch Nails to Austin City Limits!
For fans expecting a greatest hit package, bandleader Trent Reznor had other plans in mind; We didn’t want to turn this into a Nine Inch Nails show.
What fans did get was a tight, muscular set comprised largely off material from Nine Inch Nails’ newest album Hesitation Marks
Highlights from that album included slinky funk-rocker All Time Low, the Massive Attack’ish Find My Way and the one-two punch of pulsating album openers Copy of A and Came Back Haunted.
Reznor’s backing band was stellar, which included renown bassist Pino Palladino, propulsive drummer Ilan Rubin, Josh Eustis, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini and veteran NIN guitarist Robin Finck.
Reznor has also added two female backing vocalists, Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer giving the band a more sensual mix of man and machine than ever before.
Having the advantage of seeing NIN from the upper balcony allowed for just how much technical wizardry the band possessed. Nearly ever person on stage played multiple instruments, often within one song. It was fascinating to watch.
Disappointed had both Finck and multi-instrumentalist Josh Eustis playing electric violins, creating a disorienting wall of sound akin to cars racing on a track.
Reznor seemed calm and relaxed, although noting he wasn’t used to being so well-lit during a performance; Perhaps I should invest in a stronger antiperspirant, he joked as he sweated through his clothes.
While he didn’t offer many older tracks, he did allow for a few; Sanctified got a groovy trip hop makeover, and he surprisingly included several tunes from The Fragile, an album that was met with commercial and critical disappointment upon its release. He certainly proved it was in lieu of reappraisal with a snarling take on The Wretched and the hypnotic drum-and-bass track Even Deeper.
He also revisited Survivalism and In This Twilight from his understated 2007 concept album Year Zero.
But fans were getting anxious; would he play nothing from NIN masterpiece The Downward Spiral?
But at long last, the disorienting eerie guitar figure of Hurt emerged with a plaintive stirring delivery that featured a lively sing along from the crowd. And with that, the band concluded their 2-hour set.
Nine Inch Nails current stage show has been hyped as one of their most ambitious undertakings with its visual elements, but the ACL taping didn’t allow for the full stage gear. Not that fans cared; seeing Nine Inch Nails in such an intimate setting is a rare thing, and everyone involved felt we were part of something special.
No official air date has been set for the NIN performance, but check ACL’s official webpage to keep updated on their schedule.