The Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’ is one of those tracks that grabs you by the scruff of the neck from the very first note, such is the aching beauty of the 1994 song. Composed by Trent Reznor as an ode to the tragedy of addiction, it’s a song that many artists have covered over the years since its release. One such artist, David Bowie, actually took to the stage alongside Reznor to perform the song in 1995. Here, we take a look back at the stunning performance.
Taken from the Nine Inch Nails 1994 album Downward Spiral, the song has always represented a vulnerable and veracious viewpoint. Heralded as a game-changing track since its release, ‘Hurt’ received further notoriety when Johnny Cash added his gravelly vocals to an epic cover, an effort that often leaves the track labelled as one of the country singer’s own creations.
While Cash’s rendition will always be remembered as a brilliant moment, the combination of another musical icon and Reznor’s song ranks highly in the best adaptions. The opportunity arose after Bowie personally reached out to NIN in a bid to combine their tours to create their now revered Outside Tour.
“Scary Monsters was the first one I related to. Then I went backwards and discovered the Berlin trilogy, which was full-impact,” Reznor told Rolling Stone in a reflective op-ed penned just weeks after Bowie’s death. “I read into all the breadcrumbs he’d put out — the clues in his lyrics that reveal themselves over time, the cryptic photographs, the magazine articles — and I projected and created what he was to me. His music really helped me relate to myself and figure out who I was.”
The influence that Bowie had on the now incredibly famous – and far more popular Reznor – meant that NIN would open for the Thin White Duke. “We found out a way to do the show that made sense, where it all felt like one experience,” he said. “We’d play stripped-down, then David would come out and he’d do ‘Subterraneans’ with us, and then his band would come out and we’d play together, then my band would leave.”
The most beautiful moment of the set would come with the performance of Nine Inch Nails’ most popular track. Sharing the stage, the duo represented the shining light and absolving dark, each providing the crowd with their signature performances. Reznor recalled at a later date: “I was outside of myself, thinking, ‘I’m standing on stage next to the most important influence I’ve ever had, and he’s singing a song I wrote in my bedroom’.”
Reznor and Bowie would collaborate again on the 1997 song and video ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. However, before you revisit that gem, take a look back at this effortlessly beautiful rendition of Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’ from the duo of Trent Reznor and David Bowie.