It seems almost self-evident to say that Nine Inch Nails are in their prime. They're in the midst of a tour of very large venues, many of which are sold out, and many of those tickets were bought by dedicated fans who waited on line at the box office in person like the old days. But even if their level of popularity is inarguable, it's worth celebrating how at the top of their game NIN are right now. It feels like we're witnessing a late-career renaissance that we'll be talking about for years to come.

The Not The Actual Events / Add Violence / Bad Witch trilogy has made for some of their best music in years -- "Less Than" especially rivals their classics, and that was more obvious than ever when NIN played it alongside "Mr. Self-Destruct," "Wish," and "March of the Pigs" at the beginning of their set at NYC's Radio City Music Hall on Saturday (10/13) -- and words like "tight" or "precise" or "professional" don't even begin to describe their current live show. Nearly 30 years into their career, Nine Inch Nails are putting on shows that rival the best of the best, be it fellow veterans or urgent new acts. Their current live set is the kind of show that can give you a psychedelic, out of body experience, a total sensory overload (hypnotic light show included). The Radio City show was my third time seeing NIN in the past year or so -- and first since Bad Witch came out -- and easily the best of the three. They were on fire.

The Bad Witch songs really pushed this show over the edge too. When they did "God Break Down the Door" and "Over and Out" with the trip-hop beats blasting, Trent Reznor on sax and delivering his finest Bowie-esque croon, it made for moments that sounded like nothing else Nine Inch Nails did all night, yet sounded just as essential to the current NIN experience as the classics. And the classics were plentiful and on point. In addition to the three aforementioned ones they played at the very beginning, they tore through life-affirming renditions of "Head Like A Hole," "The Hand That Feeds," and "Gave Up," the latter of which saw Trent tossing his guitar up in the air as high as he could.

After that one-two-three-four punch of bangers in the beginning of the set, NIN also showed off their atmospheric side with "The Lovers" and "This Isn't The Place," both from Add Violence. They came out swinging as a crushing, near-metal act, and then all of a sudden they were a meditative post-rock band -- in its own way, it was just as effective. NIN also took the time to pay tribute to their fallen friend and hero David Bowie, with a performance of a Bowie song Trent contributed to, "I'm Afraid of Americans," and a rare moment of sentimental stage banter from Trent. (Right after that, they did the cover of Joy Division's "Digital" that they started doing on this tour.) They also got sentimental at the very end of the show, closing out with a heartstring-pulling singalong during "Hurt."

Speaking of NIN's friends and heroes, The Jesus and Mary Chain opened the show. JAMC had taken NIN on the road as openers back in the day, and they clearly influenced NIN, and now Trent & co. are repaying the favor. JAMC, who have been in the midst of a comeback since releasing their first album in nearly 20 years, sounded razor sharp. Their set provided a clear snapshot of their longevity and their evolution over the years, though if I had any gripes, I would've liked to have heard more of the Psychocandy/Some Candy Talking stuff. They played "Just Like Honey" and "Some Candy Talking" -- which were the two biggest highlights of the night -- but their later material sounds a bit more outdated while the Psychocandy and Some Candy Talking songs still sound ahead of their time, even 30+ years later. That said, JAMC were super tight all night, had a killer light show, and it was a real treat to see how fired-up they sound after all these years -- especially on such a high profile show.

Opening was Kite Base, who share a member with Savages, but unfortunately we missed them. Pictures of NIN and JAMC are in the gallery above. Videos of both bands and NIN's setlist is below.

Nine Inch Nails play three more NYC shows this week, one more at Radio City Music Hall and two at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. See all their upcoming tour dates here. UPDATE: Night two happened with a significantly different setlist.

Setlist: Nine Inch Nails @ Radio City Music Hall, 10/13/2018 (via)
Mr. Self Destruct
Less Than
March of the Pigs
The Lovers
This Isn't the Place
The Perfect Drug
Shit Mirror
Ahead of Ourselves
God Break Down the Door
Copy of A
Gave Up
I'm Afraid of Americans (David Bowie)
Digital (Joy Division)
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like a Hole

All the Love in the World
Over and Out


photos by Amanda Hatfield

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