Thursday, November 05, 2009

Nirvana: "Live At Reading" (album review)

What the heck can I say about Nirvana that hasn't already been said?  The trio had an immeasurable impact on my budding love for music in my teenage years.

This week we see a couple of reminders of the legacy that Nirvana has left.  In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of their debut album Bleach we get a remaster of that record.  More interesting though is the DVD/CD release of the band's 1992 performance at the Reading Festival, conveniently titled Live At Reading.

Taking place at the height of the Nevermind frenzy, the set list draws heavily upon that album.  It's fleshed out by a healthy dose of material from Bleach as well as outtakes like "Aneurysm", "Sliver", and "Been a Son" which would later appear on the Insecticide B-sides collection.  There are also a handful of tracks, like "Dumb" and "All Apologies", that would eventually appear on In Utero.

The sound quality of the recording is surprisingly good given the colossal scope of the venue.  Moreover the band's onstage performance is raw and powerful.  The visceral pounding of "School" and the incendiary "Stay Away" show the band as a formidable live force.

Of course the hits get an airing.  Thankfully we get versions that aren't note for note rehashes of the studio recordings.  In the case of "Come As You Are", the live rendition is far more dynamic than a studio cut which I actually find quite boring.  The band's most played song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", gets a slightly off-kilter run through, making it an intriguing listen even for those who have heard the song literally thousands of times.

Live At Reading is a great reminder that it wasn't the hit singles that were so compelling with Nirvana.  It was really the depth from top to bottom on the album's that was truly winning.  Listening to these performances of tracks like "Breed", "On a Plain", "Negative Creep" and "Drain You" are every bit as vital as "Lithium" or "In Bloom".

The set also includes a handful of songs that never made a proper Nirvana album during the band's lifespan.  Songs like "Spank Thru" and "D-7" have been heard before on boxsets and various bootlegs.  The one track that stands out for me is "The Money Will Roll Right In", a song that I personally have never heard before.  It's a catchy, yet rough tune that embodies both essential elements of Nirvana.

Live At Reading makes me regret more than ever that I never saw Nirvana live when I had the chance.

Best tracks: "School", "Blew"

Track listing for Live At Reading:

  • Breed
  • Drain You
  • Aneurysm
  • School
  • Sliver
  • In Bloom 
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • About a Girl
  • Tourette's
  • Polly
  • Lounge Act
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • On a Plain
  • Negative Creep
  • Been a Son
  • All Apologies
  • Blew
  • Dumb
  • Stay Away
  • Spank Thru
  • The Money Will Roll Right In
  • D-7
  • Territorial Pissings


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Anonymous said...

The Money Will Roll Right In is a cover version.

Unknown said...

Thanks! Just found the Mudhoney version.