Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Venue: The Troubadour, Los Angeles
Date: Sept. 3
“I almost forgot we have a new record out today,” Trent Reznor exclaimed midway through a private Nine Inch Nails concert held at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour club. Hosted by KROQ, with tickets distributed free to NIN fans, the event ostensibly celebrated the arrival of “Hesitation Marks” — the first album released under Reznor’s NIN moniker in half a decade. However, the first new song played, “Disappointed,” came 11 songs in — just one of just three “Hesitation Marks” tunes appearing on the entire 21-song set. Instead, the Troubadour show came off more as a rich tribute to NIN’s legacy than a mere promotional event. Here, NIN’s current incarnation proved as brutally intense as ever. With Reznor serving as the passionate heart of the proceedings, NIN set a new benchmark. The frontman is renowned for his multimedia live spectacles, but Reznor’s greatest special effect proved to be the utter commitment he brings to performance. Putting current single “Came Back Haunted” in close proximity to breakthrough “Head Like a Hole” proved especially telling: Both drew powerfully from the same cesspool of tortured introspection, yet the former expressed fresh insights and depth well beyond the brashness of youth. The inevitable encore of NIN’s dark, mesmeric ballad “Hurt” proved a climax par excellence: Following an hour-plus of jackhammer guitars and scream therapy, Reznor made clear he could devastate you with just a subtle piano line and a whisper.