DVD Special – And All That Could Have Been, by Nine Inch Nails

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Released January 22, 2002

Main feature approx. 1 hr, 45 min, 53 sec

And All That Could Have Been is a messy live video, and that’s the point.

Filmed primarily on handheld cameras stationed in the audience, the footage is shaky and grainy, meant to convey the sense of actually being at the concert, as opposed to simply watching it at home, on television. The footage is pulled from concerts all along the Fragility 2.0 tour route – most of the songs don’t even use the same performance throughout. This results in some continuity errors when the viewer is paying attention, but continuity is absolutely not the point of And All That Could Have Been, because the experience of a Nine Inch Nails concert in the 1990s is absolute chaos.

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The live video reflects the live album primarily in its packaging, using the same brown pattern on the actual case that the live album uses, while adopting the Deluxe album’s grey slipcase design as well. The interiors are the familiar blue-green shared among ever version of the release.

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Included in the package is a message from Trent Reznor, printed in blue, on a clear strip of plastic inserted into the cover of the video’s digipak. The message explains some of the reasoning behind how And All That Could Have Been was filmed and edited, co-opting a couple lines from “The Wretched,” ending with Trent’s musing that “this is almost what it felt like being there.” The message conveys a sense of impending rebirth, something that was likely deeply ingrained in Trent’s mind by the time And All That Could Have Been was released.

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There’s not much to be said about the performances – they’re loud, they’re all over the place, and Trent manages to at least get all the lyrics in the right places. If you, the reader, think I’ve conveyed a general distaste with live performances from this period, then congratulations, you’re right. I can barely stand this era of Nine Inch Nails as a live entity, because it’s so clear that Trent is a fucking mess in almost every performance I’ve seen. I’m not fond of it, I wouldn’t ever want to travel back in time and go to a concert, and this album and video are two of my least-played NIN releases.

At the same time, though, the Fragility 2.0 tour provided a rough framework for future tours. And All That Could Have Been showcases three songs in the middle of the set, grouped together as a slower section of the concert. This practice had been in place since the Self-Destruct tours, but Fragility took this to a new level with the introduction of three screens above the stage during these songs, providing visuals to complement the three tracks. The With Teeth tours built on this even further, dropping a translucent screen in front of the band for its middle three songs, protecting videos on it as the songs are played. Reznor added more and more visual elements to the Nine Inch Nails live show with every subsequent tour; these visuals all build on the original three screens introduced for Fragility 2.0.

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And All That Could Have Been, as a whole, represented the first proper documentation of a Nine Inch Nails live performance, following on the broken, erratic footage included in previous video release Closure. And All That Could Have Been‘s visual half was followed up with a document of the With Teeth tours in Beside You in Time, released in 2007, a milestone in visual fidelity for the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. And All That Could Have Been‘s audio half was the first and only commercial live release on CD – no Nine Inch Nails tour has ever been (officially) documented in audio-only format since.

Unofficially…well, we’ll find out more about that tomorrow.

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