Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor's digi-industrial band, How to Destroy Angels, made their live debut at Coachella late Friday night, and the quintet didn't spare any (any!!!) expense on their accompanying visuals. This wasn't just a concert—it was an art installation. And one worth writing home about.
Get this: Overhead, six flat metal squares (say, eight feet by eight feet in size) were attached to cross-stage tracking. Each square draped four see-through curtains, composed of finger-diameter clear plastic rods. White, blue, red and purple lights were projected onto the rods from behind and in front of the stage. The effect, sImilar to the cover of the band's new EP An Omen, looked like the quintet were behind the opaque screen of a TV, especially when white snow static was projected onto them.
Real talk: It was worthy of an installation at the Museum of Modern Art. Seriously impressive stuff.
Fronted by Reznor's wife, former West Indian Girl singer/Playboy model Mariqueen Maandig, the band summondc a chilling, atmospheric digital sound with keys, bass, guitar and computers. The stocky, ripped Reznor—who won an Oscar for bringing a similar sound to films like The Social Network—was on guitar, keys and backing vocals, providing an aggressive, muscular low end of Maandig's coo.
The visuals and music were in lock step, a compliment to each other. After performing the first few songs behind the curtains, on "And the Sky Began to Scream" Maandig and and Reznor traded verses: "I will, tear it down, to the ground, and build another one." Just then, the metal squares/curtains shifted on the overhead tracks, revealing the band.
During tracks from their new LP, including the self-titled track, lights flashes in unison with the metal-shrapnel skitters, like a bulb shorting out. Another light flashed on Reznor, and his collborator Atticus Ross, like they were wearing reflective metal plates (they weren't) while graph lines projected on the LED screen. It was a visual feast.
On "Ice Age," another gem from Oblivion with twangy acoustic strums interpreted as digital blips and bleeps, Maandig sang, "Sometimes I open up the walls and disappear," which is exactly what happened as the squares shifted again overhead, now concealing the band and leaving the lead singer front and center, her flowing white gown bathed in blue spotlights.
It was a star vocal turn, too—Maandig was like Stevie Nicks circa 3013. "Sometimes, the crashing of the waves is all I hear / Ocean, oh, help me find a way / Ocean, oh, wash us all away." A discordant, musical shrapnel rose in the background, swelling and then crashing like an ocean wave of 1s and 0s.
Afterward, Reznor rewarded her with a kiss. She deserved it.