Nine Inch Nails at Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC

Nine Inch Nails @ Red Hat Amphitheater, Raleigh | Photo By Mike Paquin

Nine Inch Nails kicks off their first tour since 2018 with great intensity and power at Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater.

Lines started at entrances over four hours before gates opened at Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC, some arrived as early as 3 am that morning. This was the first show of the Nine Inch Nails Spring US 2022 Tour and the first show since 2018 for the band. Excitement and anticipation were high. A mass of people peered over the fence with the glee of kids on Christmas morning and listened to “Sanctified” during the soundcheck. Local hotels were checking in people from all over the country wearing NIN gear, sporting tattoos, and telling anyone who would listen who they were in town to see. Through words and tears, the love for Trent Reznor and his music filled downtown Raleigh. This evening was more than a performance to enjoy, it was a therapeutic reunion after four long years of canceled tours and pandemic seclusion.

Boy Harsher was a perfect gateway drug to set the mood for the evening. The oh-so-slightly pop-tinged, sultry industrial dance vibes easily seduced the audience during their too-short 30-minute set. Jae Matthews slinked across the stage flashing a smile as her siren-like voice drew the crowd deeper and deeper into Augustus Muller’s rave backdrop until there was no turning back. Slickly danceable yet intensely powerful, Boy Harsher’s set foreshadowed well the ferocity that was to follow.

The stage setup for Nine Inch Nails was relatively simple. No lasers, no big video screens, just smoke and lights. In 2018, Trent Reznor stated he was done with the immersive technical concert “arms race” and the Spring US 2022 Tour setup continues this trend. Simplicity for Nine Inch Nails is like a sharp knife; deceivingly innocent until its lethal power is suddenly unleashed and there’s no defense, nowhere to hide. Standing five across, a stage filled with smoke and eerie white backlighting sudden frenetic, blazing hot white lights flashing from all directions like a furious lightning storm inside a hurricane lit up the entire Raleigh downtown and ignited the sold-out audience.

The setlist spanned the band’s entire 30-year discography. The setlist was an excellent blend of hard and atmospheric that showcased the band’s emotive range that captured the hearts of a generation. Retaining a long-time consistent lineup of Robin Finch on guitar, Alessandro Cortini on bass, Ilan Rubin on drums, and Atticus Ross on keyboards, the familiarity these men have with each other on stage created an incredibly tight and sharp performance. The interplay between music and stage visuals was flawless, fully immersing the venue in a sound and vision experience that was uniquely Nine Inch Nails.

The setlist included mainstay songs such as “Head Like a Hole” and “The Hand That Feeds,” and celebrated David Bowie with “I’m Afraid of Americans” and an excellent cover of Bowie’s “Fashion.” Drummer Ilan channeled his inner wrecking ball and pummeled out an amazingly destructive version of “The Perfect Drug” and “Closer.” Closing out, the three-song encore was a gut-wrenching and beautiful version of “Hurt.”

Nine Inch Nails could have easily sold out a much larger venue. The selection of this small outdoor amphitheater in Raleigh, NC to kick off this long-awaited tour gave fans the perfect mix of intensity and intimacy to celebrate the band’s return to touring.

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About Mike Paquin 30 Articles
Mike is an enthusiast photographer in the Raleigh, NC area with a specialization in live sports, music, and street photography.