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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:08 a.m., Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nine Inch Nails makes triumphant return to Hawaii

By Marie Carvalho
Special to the Advertiser

Trent Reznor is back.

Back in Honolulu after a 13-year lapse, and back at the top of his game, opening to a devoted crowd last night at Blaisdell Arena in the final show of the Nine Inch Nails world tour (and possibly the first and last night of its U.S. tour, the band quipped).

When the band last stopped in Hawai'i it was 1994, and apparently, cold. About 60 degrees, if you believe lead singer Trent Reznor's recollection, and overcast. Taking a break to rap between numbers in a candy-store set of nearly 25 songs that spanned the band's entire 18-year history, Reznor recalled his Hawai'i shoreside debut.

"We were five of the whitest, skinniest guys with combat boots on the beach, in water up to our waists, shivering, saying, 'This sucks,'" he said.

"Trent," as fans in chat rooms and on NIN's interactive blog call him, is the brain behind the band's pioneering industrial sound and obsessive, angst-driven lyrics, which won the hearts of college radio listeners back in 1989 when his debut album, "Pretty Hate Machine," hit the airwaves. NIN continued to innovate with albums like 1994's brilliant "The Downward Spiral."

It all fell apart with 1999's release and tour for "The Fragile." The band became tabloid fodder and Reznor bottomed out, later entering rehab. He's since re-emerged clean, humble, strong, and with two new NIN albums, 2005's "With Teeth" and 2007's breakthrough "Year Zero," released on the Interscope Label.

Last night's concert set featured the band's current, and soon to be defunct, live incarnation (in studio, it's all Reznor) with guitarist Aaron North, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, drummer Josh Freese and bassist Jeordie White mixing a smattering of old licks with new.

The well-rounded set stretched back to "Pretty Hate Machine," with songs like "Sin," and the crowd-pleasing anti-authority anthem, "Head Like a Hole." The song list covered enduring NIN themes such as sex, betrayal, power, religion and abuse, delivered up with raw intensity.

And there was plenty, too, of Reznor's more broadly dark new material: the fictional, near-futuristic and message-driven songs of "Year Zero." With that album, Reznor's trademark personal narrative morphed into grand political cyberstory. Songs like "Me, I'm Not" and "The Great Destroyer," played last night against a pixilated screen backdrop, recalled more synesthetic performance piece than arena rock — giving fans a tasty visual of Reznor's multilayered apocalyptic prequel album concept.