A few years ago when Trent Reznor decided to end an era of Nine Inch Nails, a lot of people were wondering “what’s next?”. What we got was a whole slew of new projects from Trent including Oscar winning film scores, theme songs to video games, and a new band started with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, and former NIN studio and visual contributors Atticus Ross and Rob Sheridan, collectively known as How To Destroy Angels. After releasing their first EP in 2010, HTDA took an extended period to really develop their identity, which turned into this year’s full length album Welcome Oblivion. Despite Trent’s
original statement that HTDA wouldn’t tour and would possibly only do a couple of one-off shows, a small tour across the country was eventually booked, and one of the greatest light shows ever created was designed. Thus, we have HTDA: Live 2013.
Rolling into Chicago’s intimate Vic Theater, the tour arrived on the most fittingly rainy and dreary day. Despite the rain, plenty of HTDA fans and (naturally) NIN fans gathered in the rain to try to grab a closely intimate view of the band. The key for this particular live show, though, is not necessarily to be up front, but rather viewing from a distance.
The stage show created for this tour is nearly impossible to describe. Designed by the visual director of the group, Rob Sheridan, the show is an sensory overload if I’ve ever seen one. The band is surrounded in all directions by light boxes that, when placed in front of the members, create crazy 3D visuals and optical illusions (one such featured an effect that made the stage appear to be moving towards the crowd) via two large projectors near the soundboard. The light boxes can also move to the side, allowing vocalist Mariqeen to (literally) step out of the shadows and take center stage on tracks such as “Ice Age” and “How Long?”. Behind the light boxes at the back of the stage is also a large LCD screen, that often showcases the band’s signature glitch art. What is even coolest about the band’s visual set up is that Rob Sheridan actually generates the imagery and manipulates it live on stage with the band, which I believe may actually be a first.
The show’s setlist, expertly crafted, included every song from the band’s 2010 self-titled EP reworked to fit the newer sound, as well as ten cuts from Welcome Oblivion. “Ice Age” became even more sinister sounding as the keyboards and synth replaced the wooden instruments used in the studio version. Mariqueen’s stage presence was that of a possessed geisha, and “Ice Age” was the best and most haunting example of that, as she stepped to the edge of the stage bathed in blue light that illuminated her ghostly white dress.
Joining HTDA on stage for the tour is former NIN multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Cortini, taking over bass duties as well as various synths. His biggest contribution, though, is a newly reworked Sonoio (his side-project) version of “The Space In Between” that breathes an entirely new life into the track. Once full of dark industrial vibes, the track now acts as a dancy electro-jam leading into “Fur-Lined” and “The Loop Closes”, creating the biggest dance party you never thought you’d see at a Trent Reznor show.
Although, this HTDA show wasn’t exactly a “Trent Show” as everyone may be used to. He spent a large part of the show off to side in the shadows, putting all the focus on Mariqueen, as it should be. That’s not to say though, that any of the two times he spoke in between songs to say “Thank You” and once to laugh at an over-enthusiastic fan,people didn’t collectively lose their shit. It was refreshing to see him acknowledge that HTDA was a collective projectrather than just another “Trent band”, as most people who go solo tend to do. As always, Trent just oozed classiness.
While I’ve personally seen NIN four times, including the “final” NIN tour ever, seeing HTDA live easily rivaled any of those four shows, as well as putting NIN’s Lights In The Sky Tour’s light-show to shame. Seeing the band in such an intimate show with such a huge stage setup was an experience that I feel I might never get a chance to relive. Certainly an experience that everyone at the show will soon not forget. And one that I cannot suggest any higher to people who may still be on the fence about this side-project. Now we just wait and see how Trent can or will top this with this summer and fall’s NIN reunion tour.
Keep It Together
And The Sky Began To Scream
The Space In Between (Sonoio Remix)
The Loop Closes
On The Wing
Strings and Attractors
We Fade Away
Photos and Article by: Richard Pepper