David Bowie always had a propensity for metamorphoses. Throughout his career, he redefined himself countless times over, expanding his sound to encompass the day’s trends. In the 1970s, he fell in love with soul, then with disco in the ’80s. In the 1990s, he made yet another transformation, ditching the high-fashion aesthetics of the Sound And Vision Tour for the grit and grime of grunge. This step into the unknown saw Bowie collaborate with one of the most musically explorative groups from the American alternative rock scene: Nine Inch Nails.
The idea behind The Outside Tour was that Bowie and Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) would co-headline a series of shows around the US and Europe, beginning with a performance at Meadows Music Theatre – Hartford, CT and ending with a climactic show in Paris in February 1996. From there, Bowie and NNN went on to tour Japan, Russia, and Iceland. It was an audacious move for Bowie, who risked alienating the bulk of his fanbase by aligning himself with the gloriously twisted churnings of Reznor and Ross. It was also a risk for Nine Inch Nails, whose fanbase was of a completely different generation to Bowie’s.
Following the tour, Bowie looked back on his choice to tour with Nine Inch Nails: “I personally did like the combination of NIN and me, but my fans didn’t. Bad luck! It also was an extremely young audience, between about 12 and 17 years old. My starting point was simply: I’ve just made an adventurous album, what can I do now to turn the concerts as adventurous. Looking at it in that way, it seemed logic to confront myself with the NIN audience. I knew it would be hard to captivate them by music they never heard, by an artist whose name was the only familiar thing.”
Bowie addressed the issue head-on in an interview held the day of the first Outside Tour performance, in which he asked: “How do you commit commercial suicide? Well, you do this: play songs from an album that hasn’t been released yet, and complement it with obscure songs from the past that you’ve never done on stage.”
The footage above sees Bowie greeted by rapturous applause. Bowie and NIN had worked incredibly hard to get to that point. In the early days of the tour, nearly 100% of the audiences challenged Bowie’s presence onstage. As he later recalled: “In those first weeks, we had to adjust emotionally to the fact that we were going to be challenged every night to get in sync with what people were coming to the show for. But then you start to recognize that if you’re going to continue, you’d better enjoy what you’re doing. The more we did that, the more it communicated to the audience. That’s how it went from survival to being a good tour.”
Makes sure you check out the footage below.