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When Nirvana Hit New Heights At Reading 1992

Laying down the gauntlet for all festival headliners that followed, Nirvana’s performance at Reading 1992 remains one of the greatest in history.

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Nirvana Reading 1992
Photo: Charles Peterson

England’s Reading Festival has long welcomed artists large and small from around the world, and sometimes it welcomes back performers who have become global stars since their previous appearance. So it was at Reading 1992, when the festival hosted Nirvana for the second year running. As we now all know it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating sets ever performed, not just by Nirvana, but by any band, any time, anywhere.

At the point when Nirvana played the famous festival a year earlier, in the summer of 1991, they were halfway down the bill. They’d released their first record, Bleach, on Sub Pop in 1989, but despite critical approval, it hadn’t troubled the charts. The Nevermind album and its seminal opening single, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, were still a couple of months from release at the time of Reading 1991. When they came back, on 30 August 1992, Nirvana were a multi-platinum sensation and the biggest thing in rock music for a generation. Nevermind had started a five-year run on the Billboard 200 that would deliver US sales alone of ten million copies.

By the time the band came on stage at Reading 1992, rumours had circulated that Kurt Cobain had been hospitalised with a drug overdose; the frontman mocked these by coming on stage in a wheelchair, pushed by music journalist Everett True, and faking a collapse.

True later recalled to Clash magazine that the wheelchair stunt “had been planned the previous night as a burn on those who’d been gossiping about Kurt and his wife [Courtney Love], who’d just given birth to Frances Bean: ‘Kurt’s in hospital, Kurt’s been arrested, Kurt’s OD’d, Courtney’s OD’d, the baby’s been born deformed…’”

The Reading 1992 performance was immortalised on the Live At Reading CD and DVD, a film that had been bootlegged by fans for years and was finally officially released in 2009. The film and the set featured Nirvana staples including ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘Come As You Are,’ ‘All Apologies’ and ‘Lithium’, as well as covers of tracks by bands such as The Wipers and Fang. No one could know that the performance would turn out to be Nirvana’s last in Britain, and yet it lives beyond that, remaining one of the greatest live performances in history.

Buy Live at Reading here.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. hassang hage

    September 2, 2014 at 5:43 am

    I love nirvana and i love you always..

  2. Rejuvoice

    September 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Great piece, would’ve loved to have been at that concert. Wouldn’t it be great for them to arrange a reunion? http://bit.ly/rejuvoicew

  3. ramiro

    September 17, 2014 at 6:22 am

    lo kieroooo

  4. nik hb

    October 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    i was at that concert, a shame this review doesn’t really say much about it! i guess you can buy the dvd and watch it in a muddy field with 80,000 other people for the full effect !

  5. Kurt Cobain

    November 4, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Does anyone know that I totally blacked this out? Drugs and alcohol sucks for Rock music in general. – Kurt

    Anyways, awesome news! I’m working on a solo acoustic album called Crazy Wing by me, Kurt Cobain. (not my real name) I have family photos from the era after Bleach when I got my haircut coming soon.

    • Splendid1

      December 10, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Yeah sure Kurt

  6. mohamed mansour

    January 25, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    ARABIC cover of “Come As You Are” – Enjoy 😀
    https://www.youtube.com/user/A7lamnaEl7elwa

  7. mohamed mansour

    January 25, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    posted the wrong link! here it is…
    http://youtu.be/XNy-KJkXWIg
    may not be the first cover in Arabic, but the first I know of 😉

  8. Badger

    May 1, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Hi that was not me!

  9. Terbinot

    November 1, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Even on DVD this concert is incredible.Energy, power, rage, punk rock.We miss you Kurt.

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