NIN's Beside You In Time: Better Than The Album
David Jackson
3/9/2007 6:19:43 PM

After Trent Reznor emerged clean and sober from years of isolation, the big question for Nine Inch Nails fans (and indeed for Trent himself) was: could he still find something to be pissed about? We needn't have worried. While his new album, With Teeth, got mixed responses, Trent's live shows proved that he was still on top of his game. The massive concerts actually had far more “bite” than With Teeth itself. The new live video release, Beside You In Time [Interscope], is conclusive recorded evidence of this dominance, and it's an achievement to be proud of: the show could not have been easy to design, and it must have been even harder to film. Over one-and-a-half hours of pulse-pounding, head-banging noise, Nine Inch Nails reminds us why we loved industrial music in the first place.

The concert DVD is a mix of footage from a date in Oklahoma City and one in El Paso, Texas, showing a highly structured and fine-tuned performance, synchronized to the last detail. It may not be as unpredictable as Fragile-era tours (when property damage and physical violence during the shows reached an all-time high), but the rigid professionalism of the With Teeth tour is impressive in its own right. The lighting and visual effects are explosive and perfect highlights to the heavy, rough sound produced by Trent and company. The roaring guitars and jagged synthesizers of NIN's recorded material are reproduced in all their glory, backing Reznor's vocal assaults. Nowhere on Beside You In Time will you find the little quirks and errors expected in a live show: they've been smoothed out over two years on the road. In short, they absolutely nailed it.

As with any show, the setlist is an issue for debate. There are few surprises, and if you prefer NIN's back catalog to their newer records, you'll be pleased with the selection. The omission of “The Wretched” and other songs from The Fragile was disappointing, but expected: those songs dominated the last NIN live release (2002's And All That Could Have Been), and were essentially replaced by With Teeth material. Fortunately, all the new songs sound surprisingly good live, and shine with previously unknown energy and wrath. Even the album's quieter closing tracks gained new depth, played behind a semi-transparent screen projecting video montages over the band. During “Right Where It Belongs”, the audience watches Trent behind x-ray images of animals which slowly give way to war footage as he sings of illusions and lies. Later, as if in contrast, Broken classic “Wish” energizes the crowd with its brutal chorus, “Show something real, show something true!” The DVD hits all the familiar high points as well (including “Closer” and “Hurt”), but you'll probably be surprised how much fun it is to watch the songs you may have forgotten – the older tracks especially, sound beautifully rough and heavy.

None of this makes the DVD particularly relevant to the average listener, but that's fine – live discs are specialty items. For serious NIN fans, Beside You In Time is a great buy, and a picture-perfect memento of NIN circa 2006. It's really just a big, loud industrial rock-out, but it's so well mixed and fine-tuned you'll have trouble believing it didn't come out of a studio. One important tip: Turn this one up. Way up. As close to ear-shattering as you can take on a decent surround-sound set. Nine Inch Nails just sounds great loud.


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