Crew's Technical Stumble Only Fuels Reznor's Fervor
By John Soeder, Cleveland Plain Dealer

It had been going so well, too. Trent Reznor brought his "A" game - as in "angst" - although he hadn't counted on technical difficulty.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Nine Inch Nails made a dramatic entrance Sunday night at The Q. "Pinion" announced the arrival of five silhouettes enveloped in theatrical fog.

During "Love Is Not Enough," frontman Reznor howled: "I've gone all this [expletive] way / To wind up . . . back at the start!" Truer words were never uttered by an industrial-rock icon who launched his career in Cleveland in the 1980s.

"Lots of memories for me here - some good, some not so good," Reznor wrote in a pre-gig post on NIN's Web site.

The concert began with the band behind a translucent veil, which promptly was raised for a seething "Wish."

In short order came "Terrible Lie," "March of the Pigs" and "The Wretched," with one ditty darker than the next. You could imagine Darth Vader seriously digging this stuff if he had an iPod built into his helmet.

The sonic blitzkrieg was complemented by a brilliantly conceptualized light show - pale whites and dirty yellows at first, with more colors creeping into the palette later.

By the time Reznor, guitarist Aaron North, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, bassist Jeordie White and drummer Alex Carapetis got a cyber-funk groove on for the lustful "Closer," they were bathed in a bordello-red afterglow.

The stage veil came down again for "Eraser" and "Right Where It Belongs," doubling as a screen for images of bacteria, insect close-ups, rabbit X-rays and other ninth-grade biology outtakes.

Then - dang nabbit! - the projector went on the fritz.

Reznor, 40, was fit to be tied. He had a few choice F-words for his support staff. He hurled water bottles in the general direction of the sound board, too.

After the unscripted tantrum, Reznor channeled his anger into hard-hitting renditions of "Sin" and "Only."

He regained his composure for the poignant ballad "Hurt," as 10,000 fans sang along and held cigarette lighters and cell phones aloft. The tender interlude proved fleeting, however, as Reznor & Co. raged anew to close the 90-minute show with a one-two punch of "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole."

It was a night to remember, even if NIN's audio-visual crew might just as soon forget it.

Moody art-punk trio Autolux and the hard-rocking Queens of the Stone Age competently handled crowd-warming duties, although the latter band overstayed its welcome.