Updated Tue, Mar 18, 2014 2:23 pm
Saturday, April 5 • 10 p.m.
As a pioneering artist, Nine Inch Nails constantly seeks new ways to present its vision to the public. As America’s longest-running music television show, Austin City Limits regularly pushes the envelope of presenting music on the small screen. So it was only natural for NIN and ACL to bring their acronyms together for an electrifying performance.
Fronting an eight-piece band that included longtime NIN guitarist Robin Finck, backing vocalists Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson and British bass legend Pino Palladino, Trent Reznor created an atmosphere of tension and release, with songs that offered both discomfort and catharsis. Opening with “All Time Low,” from the new album "Hesitation Marks," the band rode an atmospheric funk groove married to classic NIN bile – “Everything is not OK!” Reznor seethed. NIN moved into the broiling “Sanctified,” from the debut "Pretty Hate Machine," but pulled back from the original’s pound for a slow burn that raised the temperature in the theater.
The droning “Disappointed” and the electrofunking “Copy of A” also grew in power, but never quite exploded, preferring instead to make the crowd sweat. The band constantly kept the audience on their toes with contrasting flavors – the pretty piano of “The Frail” leading directly into the scorched landscape of “The Wretched,” the noisy guitar swatches that punctuated the Reznorized soul of “Satellite,” the nervous electronic percussion under the soaring vocal of “While I’m Still Here,” the drum-heavy rumble leading into the singalong chorus of “The Big Come Down.” NIN challenge their audience even as they entertain them.
When the tension was given release, the results were awesome, whether it was the roaring rock & roll crunch of “Came Back Haunted” or the melancholy piano and floating groove of “Find My Way.” NIN ended the show with its classic anthem “Hurt” – the ultimate in cathartic performance art.