"Beside You in Time" is a live DVD compiling performances from the 2005-06 "With Teeth" arena shows. The performances showcase the current visceral Nine Inch Nails lineup, mostly focusing on the energy of the band members rather than effects and stage theatrics - this is a contrast from the "And All that Could have Been" DVD that chronicled 2001's Fragility tour. The addition of Aaron North on guitar and Josh Freese on drums make this the most immediately gratifying NIN lineup ever, i.e. most of the sounds that you hear are actually being generated by the five men on stage. North in particular puts on a one-man show of hyperactive fury while never losing his touch with the guitar duties. The DVD presentation purposefully adds very little to the performance, opting to let the intensity speak for itself. It's a very worthwhile chronicle of a Nine Inch Nails tour that was both familiar and also subtly unique.
PERFORMANCE - 5 stars
Reznor's voice immediately stands out as much improved over the Fragility tour; his newfound sobriety suits the performances very well. He holds sway over the crowd on both high-energy classics like "Wish" and "Gave Up" as well as heart-rending ballads such as "Hurt" and "Right Where It Belongs".
The backing band is arguably the strongest to ever bear the Nine Inch Nails name, primarily due to the addition of Aaron North on guitar. North struts, jumps, flails and kicks while never losing a single note of his licks. Jeordie White manages to finally make the bass line heard in a NIN live show, something that his predecessors never could do. Alessandro Cortini is a bit of a step down from Charlie Clouser; he quietly manages the samples and sequences while sometimes letting entire synth lines go unheard ("Only"). Josh Freese plays drums like he'd recorded the studio tracks himself, even though he was a mid-tour replacement. He displays a comfortable confidence with the material that allows him to put his own mark on the show with some unique fills.
The setlist is a great mix of new and old tracks, and even the oft-played ones get new treatment. For instance, "Closer" is mashed up with "The Only Time" to great effect. The middle portion of the show performed behind a projection curtain is mesmerizing; the visuals add a real haunting relevance to "Eraser" and "Right Where It Belongs" in particular. The complete setlist is:
01. love is not enough
02. you know what you are?
03. terrible lie
04. the line begins to blur
05. march of the pigs
06. something i can never have
09. gave up
10. eraser *
11. right where it belongs *
12. beside you in time *
13. with teeth
16. the big come down
18. the hand that feeds
19. head like a hole
* includes options for alternate angle viewing
VIDEO - 5 stars
A word of caution - the picture is 5 stars provided that you take the time to use the "video optimizer" special feature. Otherwise, it will likely alternate between looking too dark and too washed out. Once set up for your TV's settings, the result is startlingly real, even in the standard-definition DVD format.
As was the case with "And All that Could have Been", there was an emphasis on cameras not interfering with the actualy shows. So, there aren't a whole lot of close-ups to enjoy. But overall, the camera work is solid in a documentary style.
One minor gripe is that each song is titled on-screen, which seems unnecessary for most fans and makes the production look a bit "made for TV".
AUDIO - 5 stars
The disc offers both a 5.1 and a DTS mix. Both sound very good, with fine separation. The mix of the performance itself is terrific, often distinguishing each performer's contribution to the sound even in the most chaotic passages ("You Know What You Are?").
EXTRAS - 4 stars
There are several tracks from the 2006 Summer amphitheatre tour, including ones that were specific to that leg, e.g. "Somewhat Damaged" and "Non-Entity". These performances were obviously relegated to the "Special Features" section because of the stage layout of that outdoor tour: the band performs sections of the show behind a metal fence/curtain that lights up. The effect is like a projected curtain from a distance, but shot from the close-up cameras, it simply looks like the band is obscured by scaffolding. The songs provided are:
01. somewhat damaged
03. help me i am in hell
The real treat here is the tour rehearsal footage. There are three tracks ("Love is Not Enough", "Every Day is Exactly the Same", and the elusive "The Collector") performed by the band in a warehouse in the round and the resulting footage is great. It looks to be the same setup used for the video for "The Hand That Feeds", including the final chapter of Jerome Dillon on drums.
Finally, the videos for "The Hand that Feeds" and "Only" (a clever piece by David Fincher) are included as well.
This is a must-have for any Nine Inch Nails fan. It's also a great introduction to the band for anyone interested in their future direction. The "With Teeth" material is perfectly suited to this lineup and the resulting show is definitely worthy of being chronicled. The picture and sound are very good and the extras just add more substance to the complete package.