photo: courtesy how to destroy angels

Trent Reznor's new band on stage a few nights before playing the Vic Theatre last week.

Trent Reznor played a sold-out show with his new band, How To Destroy Angels, last week. It's been nearly four years since the Nine Inch Nails frontman has graced a Chicago stage. Since then, he has gotten married (to HTDA’s singer Mariqueen Maandig), welcomed kids, and won an Oscar for his work on The Social Network soundtrack.

But if you think that would make the “Closer” singer soft, think again. The music has progressed, with the addition of Maandig’s ingénue vocals and pop aesthetic. But HTDA’s surprisingly voluminous performance at the Vic Theatre showed Reznor is getting ready to take a trip down the Spiral again—and hollering fans are ready to follow him.

Could it be that career perfectionist Reznor is already preparing his upcoming NIN reunion tour, which heads to Lollapalooza this summer? Based on the hints on stage recently, we’ve got a lot to look forward to the next time we see him:

The visuals For much of the set, the band played behind large fiber optic columns. (Good luck snapping photos.) On the screens, video feeds of Psycho-like shower curtains were backlit by white and red siren flashes and white noise static. Later, the stage was covered in revolving checkerboard patterns that could have been unearthed from Devo.

The sounds Although much of HTDA’s recorded music is digitized, Reznor kicked it up several notches on stage by adding more live guitar and looped layers. The musicianship showed through when he stepped away from his frontman duties; yet once he returned to the mic, it was clear his voice has been perfectly preserved, making him ripe for the early ‘90s material.

The remixes A revisited version of “The Space in Between” was lukewarm. But it shows Reznor is already tinkering with the new catalog. Songs like “Parasite” and “BBB” find their industrial muscle with heavy lifting from the gearheads behind the boards (rounded out by Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross).

Who knows what Reznor has in store for the oldies on the reunion tour. 

Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago.