It's been nearly four years since industrial titans and incomparable music influences Nine Inch Nails last played a show in front of an audience. After taking 2019 off from touring and then having the COVID-19 pandemic arrive to shut down live music for a considerable amount of time, the band has been away for quite a while now, probably much longer than both fans and the band would've liked.
But 2022 has proved to be a brighter and tremendously eventful year for music so far, with many a favorite artist returning with new music and new shows to usher in a tentatively optimistic future for the industry. On the last Thursday night of April, Nine Inch Nails joined the parade by hitting the stage at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina, tearing through a collection of greatest hits, rarities, and covers to the incredibly eager crowd. It was their first performance since December of 2018.
People from all over the world made their way to Raleigh that evening. From across the United States to Brazil to South Africa and beyond, the NIN army was in full attendance to celebrate their triumphant return. Down in the pit, numerous fans were loaded up with amateur recording equipment ready to tape the band's first show back. The concert also acted as a reunion for many in attendance who hadn't seen each other since before the pandemic, with tons of friends and acquaintances catching back up after so much time apart. Naturally, there were plenty of first-timers in the crowd as well. A few decades late to the party, but no less enthusiastic.
After getting the place properly warmed up with Georgia EBM duo Boy Harsher, the stage steadily began filling with smoke and the last of the arrivals made their way through the gates. Just as the sun began its descent behind the Raleigh skyline, Trent Reznor walked out onto the stage with little warning or fanfare and ripped straight into a high-energy performance 'Somewhat Damaged', waking the amphitheater up and immediately getting the pit in motion. Joined by creative partner and keyboardist Atticus Ross, guitarist Robin Finck, bass player Alessandro Cortini, and drummer Ilan Rubin, Reznor and the rest of Nine Inch Nails then got things into full swing by continuing the run of songs off The Fragile with 'The Day the World Went Away', 'The Frail', and 'The Wretched'.
The energy reached a fever pitch with setlist staple 'March of the Pigs'. Reznor then took a moment to express his gratitude at finally being back onstage and performing live. "After being in a cave for however many years, it sure is nice to be out and I sure am glad you guys came to see us." He shared that the band has been in the studio working on new music (which was met with a wildly vivacious response) and thanked everyone again for being there. The rest of the night included the usual hits like 'Closer' and 'Head Like a Hole' as well as the exciting addition of songs like '1,000,000', 'The Perfect Drug', and even 'Every Day is Exactly the Same', a With Teeth track that hasn't been played since 2006.
Throughout the celebratory night, as the band exploded onstage, the lights blasted the audience, and tears of joy and shrieks of delight filled the amphitheater, it was impossible not to notice the several times Reznor seemed almost overcome with emotion. Whether it was leading a powerful singalong to 'Piggy' or opening the encore with a rowdy rendition of 'Reptile', the legendary frontman delivered his usual stage presence but a little extra dose due to the circumstances. He was into it, to say the least, and could even be seen possibly wiping a tear or two away as the emotions of the music continued to grow stronger. "I missed being up here." he told the audience. "I missed the connection."
"It's good to see some familiar faces, it's fucking awesome to see you guys." Reznor said as he gestured towards the hardcore fans in the front. Paying tribute to those we lost in the past four years, the band covered not one but two David Bowie tracks - 'I'm Afraid of Americans' and 'Fashion' - and closed the night in classic style with 'Hurt'. It was a night to remember; a great evening of incredible music played by a legendary act at their best despite the extended break, with an audience that missed them just as much as the band missed them. Nine Inch Nails is set to continue a run of shows across North America this year, and if the opening concert in Raleigh was any indication, it's sure to be one of the group's most memorable tours ever.
Nine Inch Nails April 28th 2022 Setlist
The Day the World Went Away
March of the Pigs
Closer (w/ 'The Only Time' breakdown)
The Perfect Drug
This Isn't the Place
Every Day Is Exactly the Same (First live performance since 2006)
I'm Afraid of Americans (David Bowie cover)
Fashion (David Bowie cover) (Live debut)
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole
And All That Could Have Been