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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/21/02

Nine Inch Nails - Live:
And All That Could Have Been

2002 - Nothing Records (Interscope)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

Nine Inch Nails - Live: And All That Could Have Been Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/C+

Specs and Features

85 mins, NR, full frame (1:33:1), 2 single-sided, dual-layered discs, custom packaging with slipcase, audio commentary with Bill Viola, photo gallery, multiple angle feature for 3 songs, Easter eggs, animated program themed menu screens with music, song selection (19 chapters - see track listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: none

Trent Reznor brought industrial music to the forefront, popularizing the style as none before him have been able to do. Reznor's fame grew, enhanced by his ability to burrow into the psyche of all that is dark and frightening, and soon his creative music was found in video games and movies as well as his own releases. Each successive year brought deeper forays into the fashioning of industrial music as an accepted form of art. Acknowledged by their fans as the spokesman of their innermost and deeply hidden thoughts, Nine Inch Nails have come to be the white noise of dark humanity. Trent Reznor's lyrics explore the finality of acceptance, arriving at the ability to exist at a level of discontent that destroys but also satisfies in its capacity to just be.

But Nine Inch Nails concerts are an event. They attempt the impossible in that they must hold as true to the studio releases as can be accomplished. For you see, NIN sounds are as important to the experience of Reznor's dark imaginings as air is to breathe. The purpose of every note and every sound is to effectively convey a sickness, disgust and a depression; thumbs pushed into the eyes of life. They set the pace and mood; they orchestrate the muddle of discontent. But replication is a disintegrating affair. This DVD coincides with the release of its CD counterpart and fares much better. It is very difficult to reproduce the studio releases in a concert setting without being in attendance. Being there allows you to become a part of the occurrence. But how does one get involved at home with a CD, a DVD? It's tough, yes. But impossible? Nope.

The concert film, NIN Live: And All That Could Have Been, is Nine Inch Nails in all of their decadent glory, culled from various shows on their Fragility 2.0 tour. From the opening guitar crunches of Terrible Lie, with the lights in sync, the concert is a foray into scrambled brain circuitry; exactly the desired effect. There is unrelenting force, crazed by loud industrial strength mania. It's evident by the uncontrolled energies of the band; adrenaline fueled, running around the stage as if the tentacles of insanity have fixed their hooks securely. You watch as members of the band lose themselves; a keyboard spins helplessly away from the keyboardist, the guitarists undulate with the ambience: all this by the fourth song, Piggy.

As far as concerts go, this is frenetic. The lighting is spectacularly alternated with strobe effects. Nothing is spare here. Lights are used to create every mood, utilizing a wide range of coloring including the blackness of night to enhance the settings. And it all works. It works so amazingly well that it brings you to a depressing realization; you ain't there. And that's where this DVD suffers. Many concert films allow you to sit back and enjoy the event in your own perspective. But not this one, not NIN. The energies displayed here grip you and slap you, reminding you that there was, once upon a time, a better place to be. You either were there, and are now lost in nostalgia, or you weren't and you're now enveloped in a sense of loss. But don't let that distract you from the nuclear strength of this DVD. It's a journey, a frayed wire snapping with roguish liveliness; hopping around threatening contact. Grasp that wire and go with the flow of the electrical juice that resonates through this DVD.

The DVD, spread over two discs, gives NIN fans much in the way of concert footage. Crammed with great songs (and some glaring omissions), this live set captures performances from their Fragility 2.0 tour. The tour ran through 43 dates, a long haul by any stretch, so one can imagine the hours of recorded material (digital, not film) that had to be sifted through and edited. But, the selections are great nevertheless - 18 songs that run through their career span. The excellent musicians, including the lyrical and vocal genius of Reznor, create the unit that triumphs on this visual feast. Guitars by Robin Finck, bass from Danny Lohner, drums expertly handled by Jerome Dillon and maniacal keyboards by Charlie Clouser... a great band.

From a video perspective, this disc nails the colors dead on; it has to, given the colorful spread of lighting that is used. These colors are vibrant and bring out the eerie qualities that surround NIN. The blacks are deep and render those effects well. There are some fuzzy, out of focus moments on the disc, but they are easily dismissed because they serve to add atmosphere to the nature of NIN. There are also backdrops utilized by the band to further their music. Those backdrops, colorful video noise on huge screens (light panels), also work well. The disc features its video only in full frame format only, but it doesn't suffer because of that. The audio is available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo mixes. Note that you can buy a version of the disc with a DTS mix as well. Every channel is well used, whichever option you choose. You will be highly satisfied with what you're given sound-wise.

There are some extras on the disc, but not a lot. The standard stills that usually accompany discs such as these are plentiful here. I lost count after a hundred, but if stills are your thing, you won't be disappointed in this respect. There's also a multiple angle feature on three songs (La Mer, The Great Below and The Mark Has Been Made) that allow you the view of a single camera, unmoving, throughout those songs. There is an audio commentary, 16 minutes in length, by Bill Viola that discusses the video sequences (the screens talked about earlier) that were created for the performance. The commentary also addresses the usage of water and storm imagery to enhance the strength of the performances. The commentary, short thought it is, is a fascinating look at how artists go the extra mile to produce a thrilling ride.

The discs also offer a video and audio "optimization" utility. There is a standard song selection menu (with the performances on the 'other' disc grayed out), and a main menu option to turn song titles on so that, before every song, the title is displayed. All this, packaged in a nice tri-fold digipak, encased in a sturdy slipcase AND including a clear plastic bookmark with notes by Trent (as well as an order form for a special edition CD with remixed versions of NIN songs and some unreleased new ones, ten in all).

Not done yet - there are also some cool Easter eggs on this set. The eggs are very hard to find. I had to dig around on NIN newsgroups to get them all. I include them here for your enjoyment but warn you that they may be a bit frustrating. Some require perfect timing. But I can guarantee you that it IS worth the time and effort on your part, as you'll be richly rewarded with more concert segments and a cool surprise featuring Marilyn Manson.

A very cool version of Gave Up (performed outside with the band in the center of a stunning sunset) is accessed by advancing to the Gave Up selection on Disc One, waiting for 10 seconds, then pressing "enter". You will know you got it right by the obvious sunset behind the band. The second egg features a live version of Reptile, and is accessed by advancing to the Suck selection on Disc Two and waiting for the time counter (has to be precise) to approach 1:06 into the song - then press "up", then "enter". Next up is a video production of The Day The World Went Away, found by switching to Just Like You Imagined on Disc Two, then (right away) pressing "left", "right", "down", "up" and then "enter". If you want to see an ultra cool pairing with Marilyn Manson and NIN (I'll keep the song a secret) do the following: skip to Starfuckers, Inc. on Disc Two and wait until the slow part of the song commences. Once this occurs, start pressing "enter" repeatedly until the Manson piece begins. You'll know that you're there when the video stops and begins anew. Be patient on this one - keep pressing "enter" as long as it takes, as this is one sequence not to be missed. Another egg, this one featuring a commercial, is arrived at by going to the Supplemental Content menu on the Disc Two and highlighting the Main Menu (without pressing "enter", just highlighting) THEN press "left", "up", and then "enter". Still with me? Now, the hardest one of the Easter eggs produces the easiest way to view all of the above-mentioned Easter egg materials. This is known as the Beneath the Surface menu, where you can easily access all of the goodies I just mentioned. And here's how you do it. Skip to Head Like a Hole on Disc Two and wait until the time on your player reaches 11:19 (This is absolute. Any other time will just produce a skip ahead to chapter seven. You don't want that) and then press "7" several times and then "enter" or "play", whichever works. Experiment with that one. You'll know you did it because a new menu appears with all the selections of the hidden material available for your perusal.

If you're a fan, you will not be disappointed in the purchase of this DVD set. The only viable upset that you'll experience is that of not actually being there (but you should get over that soon enough). And in the words of Trent, "Now, don't that make you feel better."

Matt Rowe
[email protected]
Visit Matt Rowe's MusicTAP ------ Music Flows There!

Track Listing (Disc One):

Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
The Frail
The Wretched
Gave Up
La Mer
The Great Below
The Mark Has Been Made

Track Listing (Disc Two):

Head Like a Hole
Just Like You Imagined
Starfuckers, Inc.

Nine Inch Nails - Live (Dolby Digital)

Nine Inch Nails - Live (DTS)

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