Nirvana gave a lot of legendary live performances throughout their all-too-brief career, but a couple of will always stand taller compared to the rest.
First of all will be their iconic 1993 MTV Unplugged in NY set, which with the band’s dramatic, Hollywood script-esque closing rendition of Lead Belly’s Where Did You Sleep YESTERDAY EVENING (opens in new tab) stands even today as likely probably the most famous Unplugged performance ever.
A detailed second though, may be the band’s crowning headline set at the 1992 Reading Festival. Prefaced (opens in new tab) by bad press, bad rehearsals and wild rumors of most kinds, the 25-song set which occurred 30 years back today, on August 30, 1992 would continue to be among the trio’s greatest.
Because of the MusicVideos4K (opens in new tab) YouTube account, you can view the whole occur glorious 4k resolution below.
Between NME reports of intra-band tension and an inflammatory Vanity Fairstory that characterized (opens in new tab) Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, as “another Sid and Nancy, gossip regarding strife in the Cobain camp was everywhere (opens in new tab) on the Reading grounds the weekend of these performance, plus some festival-goers wondered if the band even would arrive at all.
As a snide mention of the rumors, Cobain (wearing a hospital gown and long blond wig) asked (opens in new tab) Melody Makerjournalist Jerry Thackray (known best by the pen name Everett True) to wheel him onto the stage in a wheelchair.
I cant its too painful, that is too painful,” Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic thought to the crowd as he towered over Cobain. “With the support of his family and friends, he’s gonna ensure it is.”
Nearly ready to quit the shtick yet, Cobain opened the concert by shakily singing the initial line from The Rose (the title an eye on a movie that, in what would turn into a sad twist of irony, revolves around a self-destructive rock star and her struggles with substance abuse amid sudden fame) before collapsing to the bottom.
Only from then on did Cobain kick the band right into a ferocious version of Breed, from the band’s blockbuster breakthrough album of the prior year, Nevermind.
The band’s set would continue to feature (opens in new tab) bar closer Something in the manner the entirety of Nevermind, four of the highlights from their 1989 debut album, Bleach, a smattering of covers, and a trio of songs that could continue to feature on the band’s polarizing final album, In Utero.
Never someone to take himself too seriously onstage, Cobain teased the crowd at one point by leading the band in a cover of Boston’s Greater than a Feeling (the opening riff which bears greater than a passing resemblance compared to that of Nirvana’s defining mega-hit, HAS THE AROMA OF Teen Spirit).
To top everything off, as Novoselic toyed around using what was left of Dave Grohl’s drum kit (while Grohl did his far better destroy the others of it), Cobain perhaps channeling another Stratocaster-wielding lefty susceptible to wowing festival crowds with powerful, destructive performances closed the show with a ragged, horrifically out-of-tune Star-Spangled Banner.
“It proved to become a wonderful show,” Grohl told The Scotsman (opens in new tab) of the frenetic gig in 2009. “Also it healed us for a time.”
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Jackson can be an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. Hes been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and contains also written extensively on a single topics for GUITARIST (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though available to music of most kinds, his greatest love is definitely indie, and precisely what falls under its massive umbrella. Compared to that end, you will discover him on Twitter crowing about whatever fun new guitar band you should drop everything to listen to at this time.