Leave it to Trent Reznor to transport us into another dimension.
With a mind-bending set and a radioactive LED screen, Reznor’s band How to Destroy Angels left the Paramount Theatre crowd enraptured in a paralytic innovation coma on Sunday night. The screen itself, draped in front the band like a prism of gauze, was otherworldly and trailblazing. This is probably what your parents felt like when they flipped on the television set for the first time: confusion, awe, exhilaration, bewilderment, wonder.
Unwittingly, How to Destroy Angels’ music took a back seat to the visual masterpiece at hand, though it in no way threatened the sanctity of their hypnotic and primal sound. Outfitted with a vintage Nine Inch Nails drive train, the music traveled along a restrained circuit board of angst and repose. “The Wake-Up,” with its fissuring pulse and adrenalized loops, served as a binary counterweight to the primitive overture of Mariqueen Maandig’s impish vocals on “Ice Age.” “How Long?,” in which Reznor and Maandig harmonize like robotic drones, surveyed similar terrain as the screen made a slight retreat to expose the full band in a sea of illumination. “BBB” and “Fur-Lined,” typified classic Reznor songcraft as the “Pretty Hate Machine”-inspired composition served as an ode to the NIN devotees.
Though this was Denver’s first chance to see Reznor perform since 2009’s “Wave Goodbye” tour, the true wonder of the the evening belonged to the cosmic blur of the set design. The music, as much of Reznor’s catalog tends to be, was ageless and experimental all at once. But with the LED threads melting in a sort of technicolor car wash, it was hard to unglue from the visuals as the band closed-out its set with the slow-building gem “We Fade Away.” It was just like watching TV.
Kris K. Coe is a freelance writer, Denver-native, and regular contributor to Reverb.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.