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Fragility 2.0: Bruises heal, DVD is forever

Mike Machian

Issue date: 2/5/02 Section: Arts & Leisure
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Nine Inch Nail frontman Trent Reznor's reputation is for doing things his way and taking forever to do it. His latest release, the live DVD/CD *And All That Could Have Been follows that trend. About a year overdue, *AATCHB* documents the Fragility 2.0 tour of 2000 that I had the opportunity to see firsthand at the Civic.

For being a very complex sounding band with an even more complex live show, Reznor took an unexpected approach to this project.

How does it differ? Instead of the normal large camera crew filming one or two shows on a tour, Reznor opted for a more low-tech approach. He gave cameras to road crew members (and sometimes lucky fans) who filmed the show from wherever they happened to be.

This kind of low-fi approach seems to be the antithesis to the very complex music and videos we are used to hearing/seeing from NIN. To explain why it's done this way: remember this isn't the first NIN concert taped. Back in 1995, Reznor taped a few shows, including one in Omaha (I was at that one too), on his Self-Destruct tour. Except for two videos ("Hurt" and "Gave Up"), that footage has never been released. Reznor has said many times that he felt the footage made them look too much like a Bon Jovi.

How does the do-it-yourself approach come off? The sometimes-shaky cameras give a very home-movies feel. But unlike the crappy, out of focus footage my dad would shoot, this looks very slick. While not as polished as a Bon Jovi video, it gives a feel of being there. No matter how cool a sweeping crane shot is, it just can't accomplish that.

Speaking of being there, if you wait until the counter on your DVD gets to 22:14 on the second disc (during "Starf*ckers Inc."), you will see yours truly in the center of the screen for exactly two seconds. Why is that so important? Well, besides the thrill of seeing myself on TV, when I'm 50 and crippled by hemorrhoids, I can show this to my kids and say, "There, I was cool once." That is, of course, assuming I'm able to breed.

The DVD has other cool features besides footage of me being crushed by a crowd. The only problem is Reznor and his crack crew have hidden most of them in the DVD. I have used the limitless supplier of porn known as the Internet to find a few of them. Most of the cool ones are on Disc 2. They include such things as the never-released video for "The Day the World Went Away," a few promotional TV trailers and additional live performances. Among those is Marilyn Manson singing the climax to "Starf*ckers" before he and NIN launched into a cover of Manson's "The Beautiful People." It is actually a little amusing because Reznor looks a bit lost not being the front man for his band. How do you access all of these? During "Head Like a Hole" (on Disc 2) when the counter reaches 11:19, press number seven on your DVD remote. This should bring you to a menu called Beneath the Surface, where you can look at all the hidden features on Disc 2. A caution here: I've found that this does not work on all DVD players. You are on your own for anything lurking on Disc One.

The CD version of *AATCHB* brings the phrase "and all that should have been" to mind. Being a NIN fan for a while now, I have acquired several bootlegs of concerts and they all sound better than the CD version. The concerts almost sound like they were taped from a mic in front of the stage as opposed to coming directly from the soundboard. What I mean by that is that it sounds flat and a little lifeless. Even if Reznor did this on his own, he is an astonishingly talented musician and studio wizard, so I was expecting a little more.

Packaged with a limited edition version of the CD of *AATCHB is *Still. *Still is a nine-song EP of redone versions of old songs as well as new material. The best way to describe this CD is to use two phrases not usually associated with NIN: 1) *Pure Moods and 2) unplugged. The unplugged tag is warranted because four of the songs are (according to the Web site) "recorded live in a deconstructed fashion." I'm pretty sure that is just pretentious for unplugged. Of the remaining tracks, only one is not an instrumental. The songs are very soft, quiet and moody. Without knowing any better, many people would not recognize this as NIN. Although I liked it, don't expect to hear any of it on K-Rock or The Dam or whatever the hell they are calling themselves now.

*AATCHB gives us a very low-tech view of a very high-tech band. Not only do we get to see one of the better live bands out there, we get to see the amazing video/lighting effects used. Reznor could have saved himself (and us) some money if he just packaged *Still* with the DVD. I'll stick to my bootlegs over the anemic CD version of *AATCHB. Although *Still may not be the new material that most NIN fans would want, it will please the more open-minded ones. As per usual, Reznor delivers in a way we weren't expecting well after we expected it.

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