Wednesday, 27 August 2008


With a landscape of already so many live bootleg CDs the sad event of Kurt Cobain committing suicide suddenly sent fans into frenzy foraging for more product than ever. With both a live video and MTV Unplugged album released, eventually at the end of summer 1996 this seventeen track live compilation was culled together by the remaining members of the band with a fresh set of footnotes from Krist Novoselic.
It begins with an intro of the band soundchecking. Even their soundchecks were fucking awesome it would seem. Truly this is a funny state of affairs but also in many ways it does reflect them band’s appeal at its most visceral.
From here the album tears into a swirling version of “School” that does not disappointment as it wonderfully hangs in the air prior to crashing through in joyfully incendiary manner. The track is culled from a November 1991 performance recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam which supplies four of the tracks present on this album. This set was actually released in its apparent entirety on a bootleg entitled On Stage In Europe.
The running order of the compilation actually proves pretty close to the setlist sequence of the band at the height of hype and mania. Early run outs of “Drain You” and “Aneurysm” run pretty much in the position they would have on any given night proving powerful and zippy introductions to the band and their wares. Both always proved particularly powerful in a live setting when compared to their studio equivalent. These songs always packed ten times the punch of anyone around them.
Obviously “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is present and during its opening the audience can be heard screaming. Its not quite the “In Bloom” video but it is screaming all the same, something record labels would have to pay millions to create with the only difference being that this is genuine and honest, true and fair that later again returns during a quiet moment on the second verse. This was a song that the band would come to eventually despise and subsequently ruin live on purpose but the performance here is the band firing on all cylinders and delivering a devastating blow.
Elsewhere the record delivers “Lithium”, “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Sliver” as a supply of career covering inclusion of singles. Indeed “Heart-Shaped Box” proves another track that inducing screams from the crowd.
Then Kurt drawls his way through “Spank Thru” before succumbing to the reality that it takes more than his messing around to ruin such a decent tune.
Unsurprisingly it is the version of “Scentless Apprentice” that provides the hardest hitting moment as the power chords benefited from the extra live guitar via Pat Smear as the Zeppelin “Immigrant Song” like drums pound the track into another dimension. This version is the one from the MTV New Years Eve broadcast in 1993 recorded in Seattle which remains one of the greatest video recordings of the band. Then two tracks later “Milk It” dishes out a similar set of dynamics as Kurt sports more silly vocals on the verses before christening the chorus.
The version of “Negative Creep” present here is towering artefact that displays how the new band dealt with and often improved the older material as they came into their own with lashings of reluctant fame and popularity.
Not quite the “(New Wave) Polly” as featured on Incesticide, the live version of “Polly” present here is a chugging and natural continuation of the track dragging it into the fully amplified live setting. With the additional noise comes increased volume in Kurt’s vocals as the song retains meaning now geared with more anger.
Storming to the finish a relentless take on “Breed” tears through prior to their famous debut of “Tourettes” at Reading 92 where jokingly they introduced the song as “The Eagle Has Landed”. Just like “Freebird” only without the flab and rednecks.
The record closes in much the same manner as many sets of the period with “Blew” as a voice rings “thank you for your patience” and the song serves as something of a farewell wave to the crowd as the guitars whistle in a panicked fashion as their eventual demise would appear nigh. For some reason the song just sounds like the closing theme tune now with hindsight. And with that, it is over.
An additional bonus is to be found on the fourth side of the double vinyl LP version of this record where various gig outtakes and stage banter play out that serve to make the band sound catty as they dealt with the various elements of a baying and occasionally hostile crowd/audience. Not a moment that has garnered major fanfare for the band but definitely worth a listen.
I fucked up and never saw Nirvana live. We were going to go to the Brixton Academy shows in early 1994 with Sebadoh and The Raincoats supporting but for obvious reasons they didn’t go ahead and forever I had missed out. I once saw Nearvana and despite being bricklayers by profession their set was great. These are songs that are almost impossible to wreck or ruin.
Not many of my CDs have cracks in their cases from overuse but this is one such example.
Thesaurus moment: sturdy.

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