It was worth traversing multiple freeways and enduring the incessant glare of brake lights ahead of us throughout the long drive to Pomona. It’s worth going to Coachella, solely to see How To Destroy Angels. It’s well worth the price of tickets, at any cost.
Anybody who’s in any industry that revolves around connecting with, making an impression on, and moving people – artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, executives in technology, advertising, gaming, sales, theme parks, theater – should be required to experience this show. Anyone who wants to experience being moved and touched in a way that will inspire them, spark passion and new ideas, should figure out a way to see HTDA.
We had considerable time to reflect and talk during the drive to Pomona. At one point, I began reminiscing about amazing shows I’ve seen in years past, which I’ve yet to write about. “Maybe I’ll start writing about all the outstanding concerts I used to see,” I said, noting that those shows are even fewer and farther between now.
I arrived at the Fox Theater, with no idea what to expect. I hadn’t watched the “teaser” video for the tour, seen the rehearsal photos, nor checked in on any social media site to see what the band or anyone else was saying pre-show. I’ve been to enough Nine Inch Nails shows to know that Trent Reznor – and everyone working with him – takes the experience of live music to new heights, every time he tours. “That’s what’s been missing from live music. . . ” I thought, rememberingReznor’s speech during the final Nine Inch Nails show in 2009.
From the flicker of the first light and the vibration of the first sound, How To Destroy Angels made an immense impact when they took the stage. It’s likely you haven’t experienced anything like this. The show was immersive, high-vibrational, other-worldly, and evolutionary. Eyes wide, considering the spectacular production surrounding me, I reached for my camera. By the time I got the camera out of its pouch I had missed 3 seconds of the show; those lost 3 seconds can’t be regained.
There’s no need to try to capture the show. You cannot do it. You cannot accurately capture How To Destroy Angels in a 2 nor 3 dimensional medium. The show encompasses at least 8 dimensions. Feelings, ideas, and music was delivered uniquely, with consistent intention and care. The experience expands your perspective, as new possibilities are constantly put in front of you. There’s no time between performances to recover from the state of awe felt during each song. When HTDA begin the next song, your eyes get wider, your smile gets larger, your vision and dreams expand — you cannot believe what you’re feeling.
Don’t worry about capturing How To Destroy Angels. Put away your devices. Experience the gift they’re sharing with you and all in attendance. I’d recommend you don’t watch the teaser video, don’t watch people’s shaky videos with blown-out audio on YouTube, don’t worry about how you’ll get to a How To Destroy Angels show – just make sure you get to one: http://tour.destroyangels.com/.
Two-thirds of the way through the show, I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of gratitude for the inspiration, the expansion, the art, the reminder to continually create at the highest level, with absolute integrity. HTDA provided an experience that moved me completely, on every level – visually, aurally, intellectually, and spiritually.
I remember the last time I saw Trent Reznor on stage – he made a vow to all of us, “I won’t let you down.” He is a man of his word. How To Destroy Angels is not some “fun side project”. Or maybe it is, but every second was created, delivered, and shared beyond the most artistic, creative, professional standards. Nothing was compromised. Everybody involved in creating this experience should be celebrated. There should be an awards ceremony where there’s only one award – and it goes to How To Destroy Angels. “This is our first show. Thank you for being here,” Mariqueen said, further highlighting all that I was feeling. HTDA is something profoundly unique.
$27. The ticket was only $27. Thankfully, every now and then, Trent Reznor reincarnates to challenge our standards and our expectations. How To Destroy Angels isn’t giving their fans a run for their money, but they sure are giving everyone else one.
There’s not much to say. Last night marked the final performance for Nine Inch Nails for the foreseeable future and I was standing 5 feet from the stage. It doesn’t get much better than that. In fact, it might not get any better than that. Unless, of course, NIN says “just kidding” and start touring again next year.
The thing is – it didn’t seem to matter where you were standing for this show – everybody who was there was just happy to be there. I saw a post from a woman who was in the furthest seat back in the balcony and she sounds as moved and excited as me.
It hasn’t really hit me yet that this is the last time we’ll be seeing this band perform live, especially since I got used to seeing them almost every-other day during these final four shows. I even ran out of black t-shirts to wear. I’ll post some videos, pictures, and the setlist below, but let’s start at the beginning.
Any Nine Inch Nails show is an experience, but the experience of this show began with fans trying to get tickets during the original on-sale and people traveling in from around the world to be at what was actually supposed to be the second-to-last show ever. As evidenced on the tour posters and shirts, the schedule changed last-minute when Trent became too sick to perform following the initial show at The Palladium. This meant the Henry Fonda (2nd) and Wiltern (3rd) shows had to be rescheduled. The Echoplex show, which was originally billed as the final show, went on as scheduled last Sunday, making it the 2nd show instead of the last show. Confused? Imagine how the bosses, family members, spouses and friends of all the people who took time off work, traveled across the country (or from other countries), and camped outside days before each show felt! I met people who couldn’t tell their family they were in town from Chicago because they surely wouldn’t understand why they popped over to LA for a day to see Nine Inch Nails, but haven’t visited the family in a year. But in the end it all worked out. Trent was well enough to perform the shows the way Nine Inch Nails is known and will be remembered for, and some fans who couldn’t previously get tickets were able to get into the rescheduled shows (although others who originally planned to be there had to return home to their jobs and families).
Speaking of family – Nine Inch Nails fans are family in a way that I haven’t experienced with any other band. There are definitely communities of fans that become friends through their shared love of a band. And jam band fans in particular run into each other while following their favorite band around the country. But Nine Inch Nails fans might as well be blood relatives. They look out for each other and NIN in a way that only a protective family member would. And the band does the same for their fans. In a fairly successful attempt to eliminate the scalping of tickets for these shows, Nine Inch Nails controlled all ticket sales, limited 2 tickets per person, printed the buyer’s name on the tickets, required ID of the buyer for ticket pick up, both the buyer and the buyer’s guest had to be present to pick up the tickets and then a wristband was placed on both people for entrance into the show. When the band found out that somebody was purchasing large quantities of event shirts and selling them on eBay (causing shirts to sell out at the venue before the fans who were there could purchase one), they limited people to one t-shirt per customer. And although they announced their Summer tour would be their last, Nine Inch Nails realized the impact this would have on their fans and added these final intimate club dates as a proper send-off. And then they played their souls out.
A small section of the line that spanned for blocks
Driving up to The Wiltern was quite a sight. I passed by the venue Wednesday at midnight and there were already a good 15 – 20 people camping outside. Dave Navarro also stopped by, brought water and snacks for the fans, and hung out for a bit. Then, by 2:00pm Thursday, the line wrapped around the block so that you could look through the alley and wave to the people waiting on the next street over.
The funniest thing to see were these huge straw patio umbrellas that several people seemed to have. It was HOT outside and once people discovered that Ralph’s sold patio furniture, they cleaned them out. Straw patio umbrellas were only $8 and they sold out in a flash. This was also one of the few places where the line for the men’s restroom was longer than the women’s. At one point, a guy drove by, blasting Lady GaGa. If you drive by hundreds of Nine Inch Nails fans, with Lady GaGa as your soundtrack, you deserve the ridicule you receive. There was a fan who walked up and down the line, giving everybody candy. “I’ve stood in this line 3 times (for the previous shows). I know how it is,” she said. Somebody asked me, “is there a show happening here?” I answered, “no” – you’ve got to be at least one step ahead of that for me to respond to you seriously. Somebody asked a guy next to me “who’s playing?” and the guy, who had been answering that question since he arrived at 7:30am said, “Michael Jackson.” Now, you might not think that’s funny. But the person’s response was, “oh – cool!” and that’s either funny or scary. Then, there’s the “t-shirt douche” – the guy who bought NIN event shirts en mass and tried to sell them on eBay for more than $200 each. As soon as fans figured out who this guy was they took a picture of him and posted it online (along with some additional descriptive graphics added in Photoshop). They shared it on Twitter and in the NIN forums and told everybody to be on the lookout for the “t-shirt douche.” But what was even better than that is that people passed out fliers with the guy’s picture on it while everybody was waiting in line. So now you have a line of several hundred people, holding these fliers that look like an R-rated version of an “America’s Most Wanted” poster and what happens? The “douche” walks by, head down, as fans call him out and require him to leave. Do not f*ck with Nine Inch Nails fans.
Once inside, there were the celebrity sightings: Tony Hawk, Ron Jeremy (for whom the crowd chanted and cheered), Rick Rubin, Tony Kanal (No Doubt), and Penn Jillette. But mostly there was the anticipation, excitement, and a bit of sadness that loomed in the air as everybody waited for Nine Inch Nails to take the stage for the last time. The show was amazing. All of these shows have been. I’m actually afraid to see live music for a little while because it’s going to take a lot to move me after this.
There are Artists, Musicians, Singers, Composers, Performers, and Songwriters. Some people are only one of those; Trent Reznor is all of them. He writes some of the most beautifully composed music you’ll hear. His music constricts and expands, extremely intense at times and then giving you space to breathe and expand with the notes. He has the ability to take all those sounds he hears in his head, and to articulate and translate them into something I can hear, process, and that moves my soul. His voice is exquisite – speaking and singing – I could listen to him for days. He’s honest and raw and 100% who he is – whether you (or he) like it or not – which makes his performances as real and authentic as they get. He’s given us 20 years of exceptional music and outstanding live performances. Even if you don’t like him, you gotta love him.
Numan and Reznor
The set list was 3-4 pages in length and they played for over 3 hours. Dave Navarro joined for a couple songs, as did The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mike Garson (Bowie), and Gary Numan. When they came out for the second encore Trent asked the crowd, “Are you guys tired?” Of course the crowd screamed “no!” and cheered. “No? Ok, I’m gonna test you.”
Although I don’t typically post set lists, I’m doing it for these shows because they’re the last shows and you can tell that a lot went into constructing a set in-line with such an event. So here it is:
2. Somewhat Damaged
3. The Collector
5. March of the Pigs
6. Something I Can Never Have
7. The Frail
8. The Wretched
10. Head Down
12. Just Like You Imagined (with Mike Garson)
13. La Mer (with Mike Garson)
14. Eraser (with Mike Garson)
15. The Becoming (with Mike Garson)
16. Down In The Park (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
17. Metal (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
18. I Die: You Die (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
20. Letting You
22. Suck (Pigface cover)
23. Down In It
24. The Hand That Feeds
25. Head Like a Hole
26. Me, I’m Not (with Atticus Ross)
27. The Warning
29. Gave Up
30. Mr. Self Destruct
32. Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
33. Dead Souls (Joy Division cover)
34. The Good Soldier
35. The Day The World Went Away
37. In This Twilight
Here are some videos and photos from last night’s show, including Trent’s final speech to the audience. But first, a thank you to Nine Inch Nails for the past 20 years, the music, the shows, the love, the heartbreak, and the friends met along the way. Look forward to hearing what you guys do next.