There are a lot of bad live albums out there. Re-mastered and overdubbed, a listener can’t tell the difference between the studio and live versions as the energy and emotion of the show is sapped out.
But the new Nine Inch Nails live album And All that Could Have Been (Nothing Records) thankfully does not fall into the standard mold for live records. It does not sound like an over-dubbed studio creation, and maintains the raw live quality of the band.
The dark energy of NIN classics such as “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie” come across better on the live album then they do on the studio version. An extended version of “March of Pigs” provides a sonic assault on the listener.
This energy does not always come through as easily on other tracks. The band’s more subdued tracks such as “Piggy” do not contain the power of other tracks. What tracks like “Piggy” lack in intensity, they make it up with a dark, morbid vibe that contrasts the raw energy of other tracks.
And All that Could Have Been provides a balance from NIN’s back catalogue. Three previous studio albums are all represented fairly. The album contains hits such as the ode to tenderness, “Closer,” and more recent tracks from 1999’s Fragile. This provides a look at the evolution of one of the most influential acts of the last decade. Nine Inch Nails has been able to combine good hooks with cutting edge usage of electronic instrumentation.
The big challenge for Trent Reznor and his band is to translate the high-energy sonic fury of their shows into a live CD. The boys have succeeded with this record. The passion is there. Just close your eyes, and the music will take you there.