By Sean Moeller for Quad-City Times on February 13, 2006

Sunday night’s support for Nine Inch Nails at The Mark of the Quad-Cities was Moving Units, a band of fellow Los Angeleans, and despite a similar melting of brooding, disco punk — played with blood- and bruise-colored lights framing it — it was perfectly acceptable to glaze over.

Lead singer Blake Miller apologized for his illness and sounding like “a dying cat,” and was finally memorable when he disclosed, “If you haven’t seen Nine Inch Nails’ set, it’s fantastic. Your brain cells will never be the same.” So he was remembered.

Undiluted and phosphorescent, Trent Reznor’s primordial aggression and searing anger were sights to behold and marvel at. Nothing he’s written over the 17 years he’s been this dark scene maker is de rigueur in presentation. He takes every word and every blazing cry to the hilt, as if he was jumping off a building or committing hari-kari. He’s all in, every time.

The band, with the efforts of invisible smoke machines preceding it, appeared behind four walls of sheer cloth that lights and video projections easily could bounce off, giving the theater-set stage a house of mirrors feel as shadows stretched against the canvas and a lone spotlight struck Reznor’s face for all of opener “Love Is Not Enough.”

A low ceiling and strobe lights working overtime, assuring that all in the sizable audience are at home, work or school today still seeing in stop-motion, turned the arena into an abyss of dramatic moodiness. At the end of every song, Reznor would violently push his microphone stand to the floor with a stern dismissal, like he was Kevin Garnett tossing a used towel back at a lowly trainer at the end of a timeout or a bloodhound flinging the body of a lifeless rabbit to the ground.

His scream is one that’s given to psychos, and the feelings that he was able to encapsulate in five-minute increments had the importance of the ones that have been bottled up far too long. He let them loose in a juxtaposed stroke of flashes and power in a way that was royally cathartic — not just for him personally, but for everyone in the varied crowd.

Reznor, wearing leather pants, a long-sleeved plain white button-down and looking like Matthew Fox’s Dr. Jack Shephard character from “Lost,” with his short black haircut, came across as a serial cataloger of some of the rawest emotions allowed. “Closer,” the breakout hit from 1994’s “Downward Spiral,” came midway through the first hour of the set and made the 40-year-old former New Orleans resident seem like he had a set of delicate inscriptions written on the underside of his skin that he just needed to expose, to give us all a glimpse.

“Right Where It Belongs,” from last year’s “With Teeth,” featured a return of the curtain and a reel of miscellaneous images that ranged from monkeys fighting to materialism in scenes of people enjoying their ATM cards to a room of ballroom dancers floating over the floor in their best clothes in utter oblivion. Then popped a photo of Laura and George W. Bush doing the same, and the crowd erupted.

Earlier in the year, Reznor refused to perform on the 2005 MTV Movie Awards when the network wouldn’t allow him to use a backdrop of the president when the band played its Grammy-nominated song “The Hand That Feeds.” At The Mark, he did whatever he wanted.

Sean Moeller can be contacted at (563) 383-2288 or at smoeller@qctimes.com.

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