Nirvana - Nirvana - Reading 1992 remaster preview

Ash Akhtar 27/10/2009

In 1992, I was 17, on the dole and dressed in a hideous tie-dye, longsleeve Nirvana top. Unable to afford a ticket to Reading, I bathed in the partly misguided knowledge that all festivals were filthy places filled with idiots who were nowhere near as unique as I. Now, aged 34, I've finally seen Nirvana's headline set at Reading and I can confirm that the 17-year-old me didn't miss a great deal. The fully restored footage and remastered sound does little to enhance the reputation of the iconic rock band, beset as it is by Kurt Cobain's ramshackle performance.

With his elevated status as frontman powered by the multi-million selling 'Nevermind', Cobain's deep discomfort on stage becomes apparent as the band launch into 'In Bloom', a mere six songs in. It's easy, with hindsight, to analyse every second of this posthumous release and search for meaning in each grimace, scowl and chemical jerk, but it would be more accurate to acknowledge that this was simply not a great performance by the band. The set's material is pretty much faultless with tracks from 'Nevermind' absorbing a bulk of the allotted time, but it's the raucous tracks from debut album, 'Bleach', that are delivered with the greatest visceral conviction.

The pop Nirvana gets stuck in Cobain's craw, choking his larynx so harmonies normally sweetened by Dave Grohl's precision are lost in embarrassment. Both Grohl and Krist Novoselic perform well and Novoselic comes over as the most charismatic member as he engages the audience whilst a bemused Cobain disappears off stage in search of a new guitar. Cobain's basic Jaguar guitar seems sabotaged from the start and he is quick to replace it with an even less reliable Stratocaster that just refuses to stay in tune.
The stage implodes on 'Territorial Pissings', with the destruction borne out of frustration rather than showmanship. Cobain emulates Hendrix's 'Star Spangled Banner', but as it seems to be neither homage nor ribald principal - it would simply appear to be something Cobain felt he might as well do.

For any 17-year-olds born or conceived in 1992, this is not the Nirvana you should be looking for. For the rest of us; one below average Nirvana concert is infinitely more watchable than 1 million by the bloody Pigeon Detectives.

1. “Breed”
2. “Drain You”
3. “Aneurysm”
4. “School”
5. “Sliver”
6. “In Bloom”
7. “Come As You Are”
8. “Lithium”
9. “About A Girl”
10. “Tourette's”
11. “Polly”
12. “Lounge Act”
13. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
14. “On A Plain”
15. “Negative Creep”
16. “Been A Son”
17. “All Apologies”
18. “Blew”
19. “Dumb”
20. “Stay Away”
21. “Spank Thru”
22. “Love Buzz”
23. “The Money Will Roll Right In”
24. “D-7?
25. “Territorial Pissings”

Nirvana - Reading 1992 remaster DVD / CD pack is out soon.