Tech-savvy whiz kids seem to get their hands on a band’s music just days after an album goes through its final mixing stages. But somehow, Nirvana’s epic headlining performance at the 1992 Reading Festival remained virtually untouchable ... until now.
Tech-savvy whiz kids seem to get their hands on a band’s music just days after an album goes through its final mixing stages. But somehow, Nirvana’s epic headlining performance at the 1992 Reading Festival managed to stave off bootleggers and came years before Napster and other music file-sharing sites made it easy to spread music to the masses for free.
Sure, if you wanted a bootleg CD of the show, which probably made it sound as if it were recorded in an empty warehouse, you could find it anywhere. If you searched for a visual recording, the grainy footage looked like it was shot a mile away from the stage. Before the "Nirvana Live at Reading" DVD, released Tuesday, you could find video clips somewhere online, and back in 1992, you probably could have bought a VHS tape of the show. Take a look at those clips. It’s nearly impossible to make out who’s who on stage, unless you knew Cobain stood stage left.
Now, for those who weren’t at the 1992 Reading Festival, you get a look at a concert that’ll make you wish you had just said, ‘Screw it, I’m gonna steal money from my brother to buy a ticket, or just tell my parents that I’m going to my friends house for a few days, but rather I’ll jump the pond to Reading.’
But forget about the past; this is about the present. The never-before-seen-until-now "Nirvana Live at Reading" DVD is presented in 5.1 surround sound with color-corrected video from the original film (with audio taken from the original, multi-track masters), "Live at Reading" depicts classic Nirvana. The 25-song set features nearly all of "Nevermind," which came out in 1991, a few tracks from "Bleach" and "Incesticide," three songs from "In Utero," an album that didn’t come out until two years later, and a couple covers.
The release of "Nirvana Live at Reading" comes 20 years after the band’s debut album "Bleach" came out and 15 and a half years since Cobain’s death.
As with pretty much all of Nirvana’s live shows, there’s nothing flashy here, save for the rock-and-roll way to end a concert. For Nirvana, that typically involved guitar smashing and destroying equipment. There’s plenty of that here during the finale and fueled by Cobain’s Sonic Youth-esque feedback he creates on his blood-stained guitar.
There’s nothing exciting visually, just some flashing lights, strobe effects, and oh yeah, some random guy named Tony dancing between Cobain and Novoselic. You won’t see a huge, self-promoting Nirvana backdrop. Nope, it’s just three guys playing arguably the best music of the grunge era.
A scraggily haired Cobain plays the entire show dressed in a hospital gown. Novoselic wears a long leather jacket that complements his long dark hair. And then there’s Grohl, who looks fresh out of high school and pounds the drums so hard the kit looks like it’s going to break into pieces (eventually it does).
Nirvana opens with “Breed” before seizure-inducing strobe lights lead into “Aneurysm.” Cobain falls over at end of “Aneurysm” before getting up and carrying on like nothing ever happened to play “School.” At end of “School,” Novoselic says, “I don’t know you’ve guys heard, but this isn’t our last show.” Cobain responds, “Yes, it is.” Novoselic counters, “No, it’s not.” Back to Cobain: “I’m about to officially and publicly announce that this is our last show until we play on our November tour. Or do you want to record a record before that.”
The band did little talking the rest of the show, aside from Cobain’s random rant about his wife Courtney Love, begging the crowd for sympathy. Before “All Apologies,” he says, “This song is dedicated to my 12-day-old daughter and my wife, and, umm, there’s been some pretty extreme things written about us, especially my wife. And she thinks everybody hates her now. This is being recorded, so why don’t you give her a message and say, ‘Courtney, we love you.’” The crowd obliged.
The concert features some laughable and very random moments - Novoselic singing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” while Cobain tunes his guitar for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Novoselic bringing out Cobain in a wheelchair.
But the music carries this DVD. Highlights include the infectious “Come As You Are”; “tourette’s“ from "In Utero," which the band had never played in a live concert setting prior to Reading; and “Love Buzz,” with one of the most ridiculous guitar solos ever performed by Cobain. Add a cover of The Wipers track “D-7” and Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In,” and this is hands down the best live Nirvana concert footage.
The only complaint, and this is really a tad bit of a stretch, but the varying camera shots bounce too often from one band member to the next as if the video crew were learning to film on the fly.
The band finishes with “Territorial Pissings,” where halfway through, Novoselic sings part of The Kingston Trio’s “Get Together.” Then it’s absolute madness. Cobain pushes over speakers, Novoselic tosses his bass in the air like a baton, Grohl stacks drums only to later knock them over. The performance ends with Cobain playing parts of the National Anthem on guitar (not even remotely close to matching Jimi Hendrix’s version at Woodstock) all the while Grohl continues to destroy everything in sight.
This is classic Nirvana. An hour and a half of grinding guitars, Cobain’s classic raspy, strained vocals, Novoselic’s swaying, and Grohl’s insanity, which ends with destruction.