Nine Inch Nails make local stop

By Greg Hyatt for State Hornet on March 29, 2005

It isn’t often when one of the most influential bands in contemporary rock music decides to stop in a small town like Davis to unleash its talents.

But Friday night was an exception at Freeborn Hall at UC Davis, where Nine Inch Nails paid a visit to a frenzied sold-out crowd of 1,800 fans.

Throw in the facts that the size of Freeborn Hall is comparable to a high school gymnasium, and that this was one of only three shows the band was playing on a short West Coast tour, and you get a recipe for an intimate experience.

Nine Inch Nails released its debut album, Pretty Hate Machine back in 1988. And while the band’s lineup has undergone changes over the years, the band has persevered with three studio albums and countless live albums through the 1990s.

Nine Inch Nails made its appearance in Davis to support its fourth studio album and first in six years, With Teeth, to be released on May 3.

The show featured a balanced mix of old and new songs, generated in front of a backdrop of dramatic lighting come to be a fixture at Nine Inch Nails shows.

The set got off to a fast and rowdy start with “The Frail,” a song off the 1999 album, The Fragile.

The crowd’s energy peaked with the next three songs, “The Wretched,” “March of the Pigs” and “You Know What You Are,” the first of six new songs debuted to the Davis crowd.

Lead singer Trent Reznor alerted the crowd halfway through the set, “We are punishing you with new songs,” which prompted fist raising delight among the crowd.

Thrown into the mix of new songs was the classic, Piggy, off of their most successful album, 1994s “The Downward Spiral.”

The song’s rocking chorus featured an interesting ending with Reznor playing a tiny handheld electric harp held up to the microphone.

The frenetic energy subdued quickly toward the end of the show, when Reznor serenaded the sweaty crowd with a beautiful version of “Hurt,” a slow piano-led ballad about desperation.

Reznor stood near the edge of the stage by himself with just his keyboard and a ray of blue light shining on him, and the crowd singing and swaying along to every word.

Just as quickly as the crowd was subdued to the verge of tears, the energy picked up again with a new song, the radio friendly single, “The Hand That Feeds.”

During the song, guitarist Aaron North climbed his way to the top of a stack of amplifiers, about 10 feet tall, and jumped off, landing just a few feet away from drummer Jerome Dillon.

The concert came to an end with one of their oldest songs, “Head Like a Hole,” after which the crowd roared for an encore that never came.

But the crowd was hardly disappointed. Nine Inch Nails had put on an energy-laced set of 20 songs without pause.