Triumphant Live Debut for Trent Reznor's How To Destroy Angels

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Best Bets Albums 2013, How To Destroy Angels

On September 10, 2009, Trent Reznor played the final show of Nine Inch Nails’ Wave Goodbye tour at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre. On April 10, 2013, nearly four years after that epic two-and-a-half-hour performance, Reznor returned to the stage at Pomona’s Fox Theater with his new band How To Destroy Angels.

Considering Reznor’s intimate involvement in the group, little about this felt like a first show, although lead vocalist and Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig Reznor did remind the audience an hour into the set that this was indeed their inaugural live performance, before thanking the crowd for being so “lovely.” But to the Reznor devotees, including Deadmau5, who made the hour-long drive from Los Angeles to see How To Destroy Angels two days before they close out the Outdoor Theatre stage at Coachella on April 13, this was the definition of a not-to-be-missed event.

The night started off with a stellar 30-minute set by Seattle-based via New York DIIV, who Maandig Reznor would later call “one of our favorite new bands,” and then sometime just after 10 p.m., the lights went down, though the curtain didn’t exactly rise.

The band kicked into “The Wake-Up,” with Reznor taking the first vocals before his wife took over, all the while behind a beaded curtain that, coupled with the screen behind it, turned the five musicians into part of the projection. Throughout the 14-song set, the projections and changing lights, which became a swirling red to match the aggression of “Keep It Together” for example, were an integral part of the show. During a gorgeous “Ice Age,” one of several highlights for Maandig Reznor, the screen in front of the band started off a black and white plaid that paid homage to the look of the Talking Heads’ iconic concert film Stop Making Sense.

Musically, the night offered as many highlights as the visuals with the back to the early days of Tricky trip-hop of “How Long?” providing another standout moment for Maandig Reznor, who, while effective in all areas, like the sultry style of “A Drowning,” shone brightest in the more ethereal moments. Those flashes provided the perfect contrast to the infrequent vocals of Reznor, who was primarily content to play guitar and the occasional keyboard. Though when he called up NIN frenzy screaming “I will tear it down” during the climax of “Parasite” the throngs at the Fox collectively lost their mind

Live, HDTA offered much more in common than on record with NIN, particularly in the frequent wails of rising instrumentation, including “Keep It Together,” “Welcome Oblivion” and the final “We Fade Away.” But maybe the greatest testament to this show was that Trent Reznor has created one of the most enduring catalogs in alternative music, one that diehards can practically recite line for line, and in a room full of those faithful, the crowd fully embraced HDTA. There was no one on this night who made the trek to Pomona that left disappointed they didn’t see “Hurt” or “Head Like A Hole.” That, more than anything, is a testament to HDTA's deserved -- and dazzling -- independence.

Set List:
The Wake-Up
Keep it Together
And the Sky Began to Scream
Ice Age
The Believers
How Long?
Welcome Oblivion
The Space in Between (Sonoio remix)
The Loop Closes
A Drowning


On the Wing
Strings and Attractors
We Fade Away


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