By John Soeder, The Plain Dealer

Maynard James Keenan apparently believes frontmen should be heard and not seen.

Nonetheless, the low-profile singer made his presence felt when his arty, hard-rocking quintet, A Perfect Circle, performed Friday night at Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland.

Keenan, who was raised in Ravenna, pulled a "Wizard of Oz" and hid behind a curtain for the rhythmic opening number, "Vanishing." Avoiding the spotlight like an escaped convict, he spent the rest of the 90-minute show in the shadows at the rear of the stage.

The scenery was minimalist, with torn canvas strung between skeletal trees, as if a tornado had destroyed a circus tent. It was a fitting backdrop for the three-ring psychodrama of "Pet," "The Hollow," "Magdalena" and other cathartic selections from A Perfect Circle's two albums, "Mer de Noms" (2000) and "Thirteenth Step" (2003).

Factor the Los Angeles-based supergroup's enviable pedigree into the mix, and you had all the makings of a riveting display. These guys proved perfectly capable of running circles around most bands.

Keenan and guitarist Billy Howerdel both have ties to Tool. Guitarist James Iha was in Smashing Pumpkins. Bassist Jeordie Orsborne White (formerly knows as Twiggy Ramirez) used to back Marilyn Manson. And drummer Josh Freese (unencumbered by a broken leg) has played with everyone from Guns N' Roses to the Vandals.

They exceeded the sum of their parts in concert, conjuring an epic, angst-ridden sound on "Weak and Powerless," "The Outsider," the set-closing "Judith" and other tunes.

There were echoes of Pink Floyd here, the Cure there and, on a lark, a few bars of The Who's "I Can't Explain."

Keenan was a versatile vocalist, equally at home crooning or caterwauling. Fans never got a good look at him, although he engaged the near-capacity crowd all the same.

"This next song feels much better if you take your pants off," Keenan said by way of introducing "Thinking of You." He also voiced support for Howard Stern and contempt for George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Up first was Burning Brides, a Philadelphia trio led by singer-guitarist Dimitri Coats. Spirited delivery compensated for the band's derivative, Nirvana-ish tendencies.