Getting to Know Nine Inch Nails All Over Again Through Ancient YouTube Footage

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With the coming return of Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails to the touring and recording grind, fan excitement is at a high. It's almost as high as it was when NIN finally followed up the massive Downward Spiral with The Fragile double disc in 1999, or when they returned again six years after that for With Teeth.


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At this moment, the band continues to add festival dates around the world, and a full-scale arena tour of the U.S. is in the cards with legendary guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Eric Avery installed onstage.

Of course, Reznor has been very busy in the four years since NIN's last "farewell for a while" tour. There was the Oscar that he and Atticus Ross won for scoring The Social Network, and two How to Destroy Angels releases.

People forget about the flurry of activity in the NIN camp just before Reznor et al. waved goodbye on 2009's "Wave Goodbye" tour. Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip all came within months of one another, with Reznor being very lax about the album's online viral distribution. In essence, NIN was loading us down with material to tide us over.

The band was last in Houston on August 16, 2008, at Toyota Center, and Rocks Off was there. With a nearly 30-song set list, the band did quench the thirst of their Houston fans.


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Late last year, Rocks Off named The Downward Spiral the sixth-best goth album ever on a countdown, proving that NIN is never that far away from our hearts. Lately, though, I have been plowing through YouTube to find the best archival NIN footage that's out there.

This clip from 1990's Pretty Hate Machine tour reminds of Purple Rain, and I do not know why. Recorded on May 22, 1990, this show would have featured Revolting Cocks as direct support.

Head and shoulders above all of the available NIN concerts has to be their entire set from Woodstock '94. It's over an hour of muddy, possibly bloody, bone-breaking, freaky goodness.

How many kids died in this mosh pit? None??? How is that possible??

This era of NIN is also represented well on 1997's Closure VHS, which is still awaiting a reissue from Interscope. Broken (1993) is a great document, too, if you dig snuff-film imagery.

The touring cycle for The Fragile featured A Perfect Circle on the road, with NIN and Reznor trying to replicate the Downward era. More than 13 years later, The Fragile is still a great headphone record -- NIN's version of The Wall for some -- but it gets tedious after repeated listening.

At this point, Reznor was reportedly still fighting substance abuse. Two thousand two's And All That Could Have Been live DVD is noticeably grim and smoky.

The With Teeth tour in the fall of 2005 featured Queens of the Stone Age and Death from Above 1979 early on, with TV on the Radio, Peaches and Bauhaus on the road with NIN the next summer.

The footage that filtered around YouTube of Peter Murphy and NIN tag-teaming "Bela Lugosi's Dead" among other cuts is utterly magnificent. The Beside You in Time DVD (2007) is your best bet for a legal document of these shows.

Flashing forward, the stuff from the 2008 and 2009 excursions shows off Reznor's new muscular self happily raging at crowds with a whole new level of confidence he didn't have in the depraved '90s, when a backstage scene would include cocaine, Marilyn Manson fucking a baked ham, and midget hookers.

Overwhelming legwork from the NIN fan community then went into the massive concert video project Another Version of the Truth, culled from the 2008 tour. You can get the specs on AVOTT: The Gift here as well.

The NIN Web site had this to say about the project:

"This is yet another example of a devoted fanbase and a policy of openness combining to fill in blanks left by old media barriers. The entire NIN camp is absolutely thrilled that treating our fans with respect and nurturing their creativity has led to such an overwhelming outpouring of incredible content, and that we now have such a high quality souvenir from our most ambitious tour ever. Or, as Trent simply put it, 'Nine Inch Nails fans kick ass'"

With the band's current reinvention, as Reznor is terming it, who knows what 2013 and beyond will bring.

Hey Trent, call your buddy Mr. Bowie and do a tandem tour.

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