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Nine Inch Nails put best foot forward

By Chris Riemenschneider for Star Tribune (Minneapolis, St-Paul) on October 12, 2005

Trent Reznor overcame a mini-novel's worth of hardships to get his band Nine Inch Nails to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night. From his struggles with addiction and depression during the making of the new NIN album to the rush to find a replacement drummer days before the concert, the 10,432 attendees should have been happy the show even went on.

Considering all that, Tuesday's 100-minute concert was an impressive show of resilience by the '90s rock icon and his new crew. However, the performance did not live up to past NIN outings -- or even to the other recent hard-rock shows at the Xcel Center (Green Day, System of a Down, Foo Fighters with Weezer).

The concert certainly started out strong as nails, with two of the best songs from the new "With Teeth" album, "Love Is Not Enough" and "You Know What You Are?" That initial rush climaxed with full-throttle versions of "March of the Pigs" and "Terrible Lie," the latter of which dates back to NIN's 1989 debut and remains timeless.

Soon enough, the momentum started to lag as Reznor turned to moodier, piano-laden material such as "The Wretched" and "Right Where It Belongs." The only audience response for "Belongs" came when the videoscreen projection -- actually shown on a drape in front of the band instead of behind it -- flashed images of President Bush. It wasn't exactly cheers.

Other new songs, such as "The Line Begins to Blur" and "Only," sounded great but weren't helped by the fact that sales for "With Teeth" are sluggish compared with past NIN albums.

The lulling moments couldn't be blamed on any lack of effort on Reznor. Sporting a near-crewcut hairdo, the 40-year-old rocker looked fit and acted as wild as ever. He prowled and flailed across the stage and repeatedly smashed various equipment.

The encore was actually more like a three-quarters-of-the-way break, and it seemed to help reenergize Reznor and company. With brand-spanking-new drummer Alex Carapetits filling in for the sidelined Jerome Dillon, the band tore through songs such as "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole," and things topped out when Reznor played "Hurt" solo on piano.

Queens of the Stone Age, the second of two warmup bands, suffered from typical opening act jinxes, including a half-empty auditorium and subpar sound quality. The California psyche-metalists also hurt themselves by picking heavily from their disappointing new album, "Lullabies to Paralyze," which follows the unfortunate firing of co-founder Nick Oliveri. Frontman Josh Homme managed to raise his group to a genuinely high ending with the stoned-out finale of "No One Knows" and "Song for the Deaf."

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