Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor sees the light

He doesn't get a kick out of foul-up, but it's good bet somebody will. Also, at Wolstein and The Q

By Malcolm X Abram for Akron Beacon Journal on October 13, 2005

Two days, six bands (four with a common link) and a lot of standing around on sore feet was how I spent my weekend.

How about you?

Foo Fighters, Weezer and Kaiser Chiefs on Saturday night at the Wolstein was a nice triple bill with Brit pop meeting geek rock, mashed up with muscular rock, for a night of big riffs and singalong choruses.

Autolux, Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails at the sexily named Quicken Loans Arena (which has broken the first rule of nicknames by dubbing itself ``The Q.'') was quite a different night, with big riffs mingling with noisy dream pop and, of course, Trent and the boys beating the crap out of their instruments.

I've seen NIN four times in the past 15 years and though it'll probably never gobsmack me like it did at that first Lollapalooza, the current kinder, gentler (or at least drug-free and healthier) Trent Reznor can still whip a crowd and himself into a pretty good frothy industrial rock 'n' roll frenzy.

Entering the stage to the short, tension-building instrumental Pinion, the band began with the (typically) angry kiss-off Love Is Not Enough from its latest, With Teeth.

A newly buffed up and short-haired Reznor spit through his teeth as if he were screaming in the face of the kissee.

Reznor may not abuse bandmates and roadies like he used to (in 1994, after knocking over a mike stand, he gave the roadie who dared to set it back upright the James T. Kirk full body kick to the butt), but anger and tension are still his stage show's main thrust.

Wish and March of the Pigs sounded like punk songs, while the new album's plodding The Line Begins to Blur took on the power of a metal tune. Terrible Lie had thousands of fists thrusting in the air, mostly on beat.

The 20-song set covered all four of NIN's full records and a few EPs and neither the band nor the crowd's energy flagged.

There's always a strong visual element with NIN, but some technical problems killed the mood on Eraser as the house lights mysteriously kept coming on. Things got worse on the next song -- the sparse, piano driven ballad Right Where You Belong -- when the projector showing a montage of juxtaposing images, (including X-ray films of animals eating, soldiers holding guns to children's heads and ocean waves, on a transparent screen died, leaving Reznor onstage alone under a spotlight.

He was not happy and the subsequent outburst was the most stage banter we got all night.

A few more one-word titled songs came next -- Sin, Only, Reptile, Suck and Hurt, which had the now sweaty crowd singing along with lighters aloft.

Unlike Warren native Dave Grohl, who played up his Ohio roots during the Foo Fighters show, Reznor made no mention of his time spent in the area or much else beyond the butt-kicking coming to the light guy.

Reports from the tour were that Queens of the Stone Age was being met with considerable apathy from NIN fans and perhaps that was why for the first several songs of its set the band seemed subdued, as if they weren't going to waste their energy on another crowd that didn't care.

There was a decent QOTSA contingent, though, and head Queen Josh Homme worked up enough energy to make a few off-the-cuff jokes.

The group's brand of ``robotic rock'' isn't particularly angry or emotional. It's really more about good fat riffs, sitting on a groove and Homme's melodic sense. The set's upbeat songs, such as Go With the Flow, No One Knows and Little Sister, which prominently features the cowbell (and couldn't we all use more cowbell in our lives), seemed to get more heads nodding then the slower Kyuss-flavored tunes, including a lengthy You Can't Quit Me Baby and a rarely played (Homme said it had been eight years) Give the Mule What He Wants.

Personally, I still think the band misses original bassist Nick Oliveri (who was also with Homme in Kyuss).

Oliveri, an on- and off-stage wild card, brought insane energy to the live show and some cool songs to the band's first three records, but I didn't have to ride in the tour bus with him, so it's easy for me to judge.

Opener Autolux plied its ethereal, yet noisy, dream pop for about a half-hour to a slowly filling arena. The Los Angeles group, featuring former members of Ednaswap and (former Prince co-horts) Wendy & Lisa's band, melds soft melodies with some feedback-drenched freakouts and drummer Carla Azar's simple and insistent backbeat.

Its debut album, Future Perfect, produced by T-Bone Burnett, is a pleasant listen, bringing to mind early '90s bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Throwing Muses and Lush. The music isn't arena-ready and the crowd didn't seem to care much, which is too bad because in a smaller club setting (say, at the cozy comfortable confines of the Grog), the band would probably be able to connect better with an audience.

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