There were a lot of questions that we had going into the live debut of How To Destroy Angels last night at the Fox Theater in Pomona.  How would the live show differ from the visceral experience of attending a Nine Inch Nails performance?  Would fans accept Trent Reznor’s latest project featuring his wife Mariqueen Maandig on vocals?  What could we expect from a visual standpoint from some of the most creative minds in the industry?  Many of these questions were answered last night in the most positive way- How To Destroy Angels was a visual assault and sonic journey that could be enjoyed by new fans and Nine Inch Nails diehards of old.  At times the experience felt like Nine Inch Nails-lite but it didn’t detract from the mastery of the new and original songs from How To Destroy Angels.  This was a success that was worthy of standing on its own merits and the intricately woven vocals of Mariqueen with four of the industries most progressive musical minds.

While we had many questions going into last night, one thing we knew for sure was that we were in for a production that was meticulously created.  With Trent Reznor, Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross at the helm of the band, a high production quality experience was pretty much a guarantee.  Visually, How To Destroy Angels (HTDA) was enthralling.  The band hired the same creative team behind the Nine Inch Nails tour Lights In The Sky that at the time brought together the most innovative live stage show in the world.  That tour still holds up as one of the most visually stunning concert experiences we have ever seen, and the people at Moment Factory (the production company behind the experience) have definitely put together an even more impressive experience with How To Destroy Angels.  And that’s a good thing, because as great as the band was last night, there are lulls and drawn out moments in the music that rely on this type of visual experience to drive the concert forward.  For the most part Trent is the only pure rock element of the band- hammering away chords on his guitar and adding backing vocals with a snarl.  Alessandro Cortini provides bass on many songs as well, but he’s also plugging away at synths during most tracks.  Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross make up the other part of the band on opposite sides of each other in an almost DJ booth like manner.  The whole set up works beautifully though, giving every musician an equal presence on stage.

How To Destroy Angels - Fox Theater Pomona photo by Brian Erzen
How To Destroy Angels – Fox Theater Pomona photo by Brian Erzen

One of the funnier aspects of the night was listening and watching fans interact with the band.  Without a doubt, most of the people in attendance were there to see Trent Reznor.  He could have been singing cover songs of Eve 6 and the venue would have still been sold out.  So it wasn’t a surprise when the crowd erupted in cheers the first time Trent stepped up to the mic to offer backing vocals on the track “Keep It Together”.  This trend continued throughout much of the night- every time Trent sang the crowd would cheer louder and louder.  “The Loop Closes” was the most Nine Inch Nails-esque moment of the night.  The driving bass and backline, the huge sound and a growling Trent Reznor had the whole crowd moving and bobbing their head.  It was the closest mosh-pit moment of the night and it was a welcome feeling.

As hard as it was for fans to not throw themselves at the presence of Trent on stage (and after awhile the cheers that erupted every time he used the mic started to feel a little embarrassing for everyone involved) the night was really about the music of this new entity.  “Ice Age” was a highlight for the slower and deeper tracks, along with “The Space In Between” which received a SONOIO (Alessandro Cortini’s solo project) remix that made it a much more enjoyable live experience.  But the best tracks and aspects of the music were the ones that got people to dancing.  “BBB” and “Fur Lined” were cuts from the first How To Destroy Angels EP and the band has since taken a different route with the full length album Welcome Oblivion.  Those tracks have seemingly been long forgotten, but live they were amazing and crowd movers.

How To Destroy Angels - Fox Theater Pomona photo by Brian Erzen
How To Destroy Angels – Fox Theater Pomona photo by Brian Erzen

It’s hard to tell what the future has in store for the band.  Nine Inch Nails is forming again right around the corner, and it will be pretty impossible to maintain both bands live seeing how Alessandro, Rob, Atticus and Trent are aspects of both.  It’s conceivable that the band will have one tour, and if that is the case it’s something you have to see live.  How To Destroy Angels might be Nine Inch Nails for girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not totally awesome.

Seen in attendance: Joel Zimmerman (Deadmau5), Josh Freese (NIN, The Vandals), Ilan Rubin (NIN), Billy Howerdel (A Perfect Circle) and many more.

Setlist:

The Wake-Up
Keep It Together
Parasite
And the Sky Began to Scream
Ice Age
The Believers
How Long?
Welcome Oblivion
BBB
The Space in Between
(Sonoio Remix)
Fur-Lined
The Loop Closes
A Drowning
Encore:
On the Wing
Strings and Attractors
We Fade Away

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