I was only nine-years-old when Kurt Cobain last graced a British stage. That appearance was on August 30th 1992 at the Reading Festival. Though aware of whom Nirvana were, my nine-year-old self had little knowledge of their musical importance, nor of the speculation about Cobain’s ill health and drug addiction in the lead up to their headline set. Having been ranked number one in Kerrang! Magazine’s “100 Gigs That Shook The World” and voted as “Nirvana’s Number One Greatest Moment” by fans in an NME poll, Live At Reading entered the DVD player with much anticipation and high expectations.
Cobain and his crew didn’t disappoint. Entering the stage in a wheelchair and blonde wig, Cobain confronted the health worries head on. Though the moment was brief, it was insightful into whom Cobain was as a person. Then after getting his guitar, Cobain launched straight into “Breed”. The magic was instant. Many people say nowadays that Nirvana, though a sound defining band, were in many ways over-rated. The proof being in the pudding, they weren’t. Energetic, engaging and compelling, Cobain is addictive viewing. His occasional asides to the audience all part of his distant charm.
Energetic, engaging and compelling, Cobain is addictive viewing.
The surprisingly fresh-faced Grohl, Novoselic and Cobain were all on full pelt as they performed the majority of Nevermind, alongside a selection from Bleach. Also in the mix were three, as then, unreleased tracks including the debut airing of “Tourette’s”. As the set drew to a close, the trio paid a fitting tribute to the more obscure bands that had inspired their sound — with fitting covers of Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” and The Wipers’ “D-7”. Inevitably “Come As You Are” and “Lithium” got the crowd roaring, though their tender rendition of “Polly” demonstrated a very different side to Nirvana. Showing a blatant dislike for their massive hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” opened with a dirgy interpretation of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”.
For a brief moment Kurt Cobain shed his Rock God demeanour in a tender tribute to his wife and daughter. The new father proudly mentioned his 12 day of daughter Frances Bean before defending his wife Courtney Love. Before launching into a heartfelt “All Apologies”, Cobain got a willing audience to scream “Courtney We Love You!”
Live At Reading is a well-shot documentation of Nirvana’s final UK performance. Cobain’s iridescent presence is captivating, while the sheer force and live determination of the trio is almost uncomparable. There is no doubt that the previously unreleased footage is a must have for any Nirvana fan.