4 1/2 stars
When it comes to live albums, you never know. I’m often let down. Live versions of songs usually sound thin in comparison to the studio recordings and are usually just something that the hard-core fans will want. Fortunately, this is not the case with Nine Inch Nails live album “And All that Could Have Been.”
The main difference between a live NIN album and a studio recording is the presence of a backup band. On “And All that Could Have Been,” Trent Reznor is joined with Robin Finck (guitar, keyboard), Danny Lohner (bass, guitar, keyboard), Jerome Dillon (drums) and Charlie Clouser (keyboards). These songs were recorded from various shows during the 2000 “Fragility” tour.
I actually prefer the live versions of the “Pretty Hate Machine” era songs to the originals. Although “Pretty Hate Machine” is a classic, a remastered version would be welcome. With a backup band and added guitar, “Terrible Lie,” “Sin,” and “Head like a Hole” sound stronger here then they do on the original release. While the live renditions of the other tracks (from “The Downward Spiral,” “Broken,” “The Fragile” and misc.) generally do not surpass the studio versions, they sound exciting none-the-less and should please most fans by giving them a different take on the songs. The rendition of “Hurt” sounds especially interesting. One might think that such a personal, intimate song would not translate well in the arena, but it never looses its intensity. Indeed, “Hurt” sounds just as powerful here as it does on “The Downward Spiral,” only its power is magnified by the presence and empathy of a subdued yet energized audience.
The tracklist serves, more-or-less, as a NIN greatest hits. While one could argue for the inclusion of some songs, and the exclusion of others, it’s essentially a good overview and sampling of NIN catalogue up to that point. The order of the songs is arranged in such a way that the album never looses momentum or is anti-climatic. While the songs were taken from different shows, the album sounds coherent and never hackneyed. Trent Reznor notes in the accompanying live DVD that “And All that Could Have Been.” comes as close as you can to emulate the live NIN experience. NIN is definitely an exciting band to see live and this CD (and the DVD) do a great job of capturing the live experience.
“And All that Could Have Been.” was originally released as a single album and also as a double album with a second disc titled “Still.” This second disc contains stripped down renditions of various NIN songs. While this double CD edition is now out-of-print (although it can be bought used at Amazon) the “Still” CD is still available via NIN.com. For NIN fans it’s defiantly worth checking out.