When Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie teamed up for a tour in the summer of 1995, they faced a pretty thorny question: Who would headline? At this point in their careers, Nine Inch Nails were a much bigger draw on the concert circuit than Bowie, but Trent Reznor couldn’t accept the idea of playing after one of his biggest heroes.
“We found out a way to do the show that made sense, where it all felt like one experience,” Reznor recently told Rolling Stone. “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. One of the greatest moments of my life was standing onstage next to David Bowie while he sang ‘Hurt’ with me. I was outside of myself, thinking, ‘I’m standing onstage next to the most important influence I’ve ever had, and he’s singing a song I wrote in my bedroom.'” (Watch a video of their duet on “Hurt” right here.)
The Nine Inch Nails set flowed right into Bowie’s set without a single second of downtime, but Nine Inch Nails fans still walked out in droves. “A lot of the audience knew him because they knew Nirvana’s version of ‘The Man Who Sold the World,'” Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey recently told Rolling Stone. “I thought that was funny.”
These shows took place five years after Bowie officially retired his hits on the Sound+Vision tour, so his set was mostly songs from his new LP, Outside, and lesser-known older tunes like “Andy Warhol” and “Teenage Wildlife.” “In the environment of an outdoor-amphitheater rock concert in the summer, people with 32-ounce beers probably would have preferred to hear ‘Changes,’ rather than an art installation on stage,” Reznor said. “He did what he wanted to do. That made an impression. And I think about that anytime I’m going to ask for your attention or your money in some capacity.”