Review Summary: Nirvana’s infamous performance at the Reading festival gets released about 15 years after it should have been, but hey: better late than never.
In 1994, the year Kurt Cobain did or did not commit suicide, Nirvana released its famous MTV Unplugged
live album. This eventually achieved a classic status, which it very well deserved. The performance was stripped-down, but with the band standing on the brink of destruction, the angst-filled music shone through as never before in the superbly performed acoustic set, which included some interesting additions, in the form of material not originally written by the band. Their own material got a new edge and the covers were fantastic. Surely, it was a live album Nirvana would never best.
And as of today, they still have not. After the band had effectively ceased to exist, we have seen the release of the also relatively popular From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah
, a live album that would better represent the rawer, actual Nirvana in its earlier days. The Nirvana at top of their game. And truly, it was decent, but it still felt a bit grabbed together. What fans had really been waiting for, was a coherent album that captured Nirvana’s short-lasting glory in the best way possible.
And then we got Live at Reading
This record was recorded a year after Nevermind
, still one of the world’s biggest breakthrough albums, was released. That album hit big, and so did the musicians who made it. Nirvana’s popularity shot through the roof, and they took the all-too-willing audience by storm (although ironically, Cobain was eventually torn apart by his band’s own success). Live at Reading
is the perfect display of that period, the period where the tides had turned highest for Nirvana. Originally it was performed at the Reading Festival in Britain, and has been described with terms such as ‘stage-annihilating’, and is still notoriously known for Cobain’s arrival on stage, which he did in a wheelchair.
It is in fact astonishingly surprisingly that only 15 years after Cobain’s passing, the move to bring forth this performance has been made. Since ’92, it has been appeared in bootleg form in many occasions, but now finally the effort has been made to fully and officially create a remaster. Better late than never, of course, and Live at Reading
comes as an unexpectedly pleasant arrival in late 2009. Because yes, the job is exceptionally well done.
Especially for such a revived performance, the production team has delivered an excellent work. The noisy, punky grunge of Nirvana is transferred as well as could be to this disc. The band and audience are kept at a great balance, and between the noise of Cobain’s guitar, Novoselic’s bass and Grohl’s drums do not go at all unnoticed. On top of that, the disc is quite lengthy. Live at Reading
barely makes it with a single disc, which is crammed full at 77 minutes with its 24 tracks. The majority of Bleach
is featured, and even some unfinished versions from would-be In Utero
(e.g. All Apologies
As for Nirvana itself, it functions exactly like you would expect it to in the period they were in. Live at Reading
is loud, noisy, punky grunge per definition. Of the 77 minutes, about 70 of them contain loud distortion and a gruffly screaming Kurt Cobain, who is obviously the point of focus. The rhythm section is quite a force to be reckoned with, however. Noveselic has a clear bass tone throughout, and Gohl’s drumming is both fierce and precise, and truly a highlight of the album’s sound. Nirvana really was
at the top of their game here.
Live at Reading
is the addition to Nirvana’s discography that should have been put there long ago. It is a raw, gruffy, and especially loud presentation of the band’s Bleach
era sound, and it puts forth that presentation exceptionally well. Just when we had almost forgotten about Nirvana, this live release comes rolling around the corner, it’s arrival deadly accurate and perfectly adequate. Kurt would have been proud.
- Kurt Donald Cobain (R.I.P.) ~ Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals
- Krist Anthony Novoselic ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- David Eric Grohl ~ Drums, Backing Vocals