With the possible exception of Alice Cooper (in town last week), it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate Halloween arena headliner than Nine Inch Nails.
Conveniently, the featured single on Nine Inch Nails’ new album, “Hesitation Marks,” bears the spook-worthy title of “Came Back Haunted.” That fact aside, pretty much everything about Trent Reznor’s vision of industrial metal is steeped in harrowingly moody walls of voice, guitars and drums.
Engulfed in impenetrably thick smoke, Reznor and the band opened a two-hour show on Thursday at Amway Center with another song off the new album: “Copy of A” evolved from an insistent rhythm figure into unhinged, swirling noise embellished by flashing banks of spotlights and strobes just above each of the musicians – lights that seemingly chased each other around the stage.
That mayhem was expanded in “1,000,000,” ignited by an overdriven guitar riff that threatened to cut through Reznor’s frantic vocals like a buzz-saw. Next, the band downshifted into “Terrible Lie,” a more pensive anthem pushed ahead by machine-gun snare-drum shots and rhythm punctuation that dropped like a hammer.
With the exception of Reznor, the band always has boasted a rotating cast of sidemen. On Thursday, the foundation was provided by keyboardists Alessandro Cortini and Josh Eustis, guitarist Robin Finck, veteran bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Ilan Rubin and back-up singers Sharlotte Gibson and Lisa Fischer (the latter known for her touring work with the Rolling Stones).
The female voices often were melted like snowflakes by the scorching metal. Happily, the acoustics were favorable enough to allow them to surface at key moments, such as the melodic “All Time Low.” Likewise, the manic “March of the Pigs” and evocative “Piggy” demonstrated dynamic shifts elevated by a pleasing mix in the arena, where much of the upper bowl was closed.
There were more melodies from opener Gary Numan, whose keyboard-driven band showcased his synth-pop style on “I Am Dust,” “Everything Comes Down to This,” the obligatory “Cars” and others in a one-tempo-fits-all 45 minutes.
By comparison, Reznor and Nine Inch Nails were more sonically and visually engaging, framing propulsive rock (“Somewhat Damaged,” “Head Like a Hole”) and subdued ballads (“Find My Way,” “Hurt”) against lasers and effects that ranged from beautiful to near-sensory overload.
Halloween or not, it’s frightfully powerful.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun