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From the opening hushed whispers and pounding bass beat of “The Wake-Up” coming through the epic sound system at the Fillmore Silver Spring, I knew this wasn’t going to be your average concert going experience.  I mean, this is Trent Reznor we’re talking about — the man lives to impress his fans.  And what followed was and hour and a half of sonic, visual and mental assault from a band well versed in the use of technology to harness a mood.

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To be frank, the entire show felt like a mind melt of technicolor and cinemascope, aimed at making you both blind and enlightened.  The production reminded me of PSA’s and propaganda toting an anti-television message of:  “THIS. WILL. ROT. YOUR. BRAIN.”   But that wasn’t the case as bright bursts of pure white light punctuated every syllable worth remembering or deciphering by frontwoman (and Reznor’s wife), Mariqueen Maandig.  And it was as soon as they launched into “Keep It Together” where the on stage lighting theatrics stilled, but not the vibe.  Maandig’s vocals are haunting, easily penetrating the layers of skin that protect the spine to hit right where it feels deepest.  She’s learned well from her husband just how to tease those at her feet with enough of a taste of possibility without spoiling the whole surprise.

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Reznor stayed in the shadows for a good portion of the show, unless a short vocal or guitar solo gave excuse for the overhead lights to expose his familiar face.  The same could be be said for fellow bandmates, Atticus Ross, Rob Sheridan and Alessandro Cortini.  Maandig may have been the main focus of the entire production, but with a sultry sway about her and the kind of cadence on her words that actors dream of, most were putty in her hands.

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With that said, this was the last show of the tour and I was a bit surprised Maandig wasn’t more coy and coquettish with the audience.  Perhaps an introverted nature maybe be best to make beautiful music, but is it the right one to perform it too?  Regardless, How to Destroy Angels did far from disappoint, no matter what color of light they were bathed under.  Even in the absence of visuals, when the curtains were drawn or the stage went dark, there was a palpable electricity in the air at the Fillmore… one not easily manipulate, let alone duplicated.

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I’ll say this about the show: I walked away inspired and full of questions, puzzles and queries on where the future lies for HTDA.  I would certainly love to see them again in a club setting, close enough to touch but far enough away to feel on my own.  And fuck, if they intend to bring a light show like this to every performance? I’ll be there.  Brain on, emotions on overdrive and all the cares in the world gone from thought.

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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
  • Fur-Lined
  • The Loop Closes
  • A Drowning
Encore:
  • On the Wings
  • Strings and Attractors
  • We Fade Away

 

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