This is a guide to (so far anyway) the only official 'Nirvana' live album: 'From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah'. It was initially conceived as part of a two disc release, featuring the complete 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance, to be called 'Verse Chorus Verse'. On August 23 1994 Geffen announced that the double CD was being compiled and that the live component would be made up of performances stretching the bands career from 1989 to 1994. On September 1 1994, however, another press release was issued stating that the live part of the project had been dropped and that just the Unplugged performance would be released (which it subsequently was in November 1994). The reason for this was that the remaining band members felt it too close to Kurt's death to work on the piece. However, although DGC had given the impression that the work on the live part had not progressed very far, Jim Merlis, in a 1997 article for Goldmine by Gillian Gaar, insists that it was all complete bar mixing: "It was a whole cohesive album. And it's different from the one that came out later [Wishkah]. They went back and started at square one with this [in 1996] because they gained a little perspective on it" (a small number of the original, unmixed, album set were made for DGC staff).
The album was eventually released in October 1996 after a long period of delays and rumours and became the bands second posthumous US #1. The album is generally regarded as a disappointment to collectors of Nirvana's live shows and it is difficult to belive that Krist Noveselic really listened to over 100-hours of live material when choosing the performances he did. The selection was seen as being 'unimaginative' and 'conservative' with only two songs being picked from the 'Bleach' era and an over-reliance on two shows in particular: the 11/25/91 show at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland and the 12/28/91 Del Mar Fairgrounds, CA shows which make up seven of the seventeen tracks found on this disc. The album though is the best place to get a sample of Nirvana's live shows, the songs are well mixed and every song is available in its best quality on this compilation. However, most of the tracks (bar perhaps 'Scentless Apprentice', 'tourette's' and 'Smells Like Teen Spirit') have, without doubt, been performed better at other shows.
The guide itself is intended to give the reader a few details on the shows that the songs on this compilation have been drawn from and their place in the history of Nirvana's live shows.
The following performances feature on this release:
|Intro||December 03, 1989||Astoria Theatre, London, UK|
|School||November 25, 1991||Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland|
|Drain You||December 28, 1991||O'Brien Pavilion, Del Mar, CA|
|Aneurysm||December 28, 1991||O'Brien Pavilion, Del Mar, CA|
|Smells Like Teen Spirit||December 28, 1991||O'Brien Pavilion, Del Mar, CA|
|Been A Son||November 25, 1991||Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland|
|Lithium||November 25, 1991||Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland|
|Sliver||November 10, 1993||Civic Centre, Springfield, MA|
|Spank Thru||November 19, 1991||Castle Theatre, Rome, Italy|
|Scentless Apprentice||December 13, 1993||Pier 48, Seattle, WA|
|Heart-Shaped Box||December 30, 1993||Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA|
|Milk It||January 07, 1994||Seattle Centre Arena, Seattle, WA|
|Negative Creep||October 31, 1991||Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA|
|Polly||December 03, 1989||Astoria Theatre, London, UK|
|Breed||December 03, 1989||Astoria Theatre, London, UK|
|tourette's||August 30, 1992||Reading Festival, Reading, UK|
|Blew||November 25, 1991||Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland|
3rd December 1989, Astoria Theatre, London, UK
Songs featured on compilation: Intro (Track #1), Breed (Track #15) and Polly (Track #14).
Songs also played at this show: School, I Wanna Be Your Dog (jam of a Stooges song), Scoff, Love Buzz, Floyd The Barber, Dive, Big Cheese, Spank Thru, About A Girl, Molly's Lips, Sappy, Negative Creep and Blew.
Review: Undoubtedly few live discs have started off as inauspiciously as this one. The band is captured sound-checking on stage before the final date of their exhaustive European tour. The band talks briefly about nothing in particular, then Kurt suddenly lets out a bloodcurdling scream to warm up his voice for the performance. This was not the first time the band had done this, they were often late for performances or so far down the bill that they often weren't allowed a proper sound check (Nirvana were opening for Tad and Mudhoney at this show) resulting in the impromptu sound check found here. Of the other 2 songs featured 'Breed' is a rawer version with slightly different lyrics but not especially different from the Nevermind version issued a little under 2 years later. 'Polly' on the other hand is a full band electric version. Common to live shows of this period but a treat for those new to Nirvana's live experience, 'Polly' is one of the highlights of this compilation.
Of the show as a whole despite mixed reviews from the press this is in our opinion as good an example as any of a Nirvana show of the period. The show itself is intense and unrelenting and features an awesome jam of the Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. One of the better live shows out there in our opinion.
Also available: This show is available in two forms: a high quality incomplete DAT recording which can be found on the 'Wired' bootleg which omits all the tracks before 'Dive' and a lesser quality but complete audience recording. Both are highly recommended.
NB. It should also be noted that the date listed on the booklet that accompanies this CD which lists this show as the 5th December is incorrect and the true date this show was played is the 3rd December.
25th November 1991, Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland
Songs featured on compilation: School (Track #2), Been A Son (Track #6), Lithium (Track #7) and Blew (Track #17).
Songs also played at this show: Drain You, Aneurysm, Floyd The Barber, Smells Like Teen Spirit, About A Girl, Polly, Sliver, Breed, Come As You Are, Been A Son, Negative Creep, On A Plain, Love Buzz and Territorial Pissings.
Review: This show may be one of the more familiar ones to those who own the 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' video (it's the one with THAT 'Come As You Are', see 'Live Nirvana's 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' guide for more info). The songs used from this show are four of the most commonly found amongst Nirvana setlists and as such are difficult to evaluate objectively. 'School' for instance has been played in almost every show since 1988 (see Live Nirvana's 'First and Last Performances' and 'Concert Statistics' sections for more information if you are interested) and as such tended to be performed consistently with little actual difference in performance. They are all well played however. The only real point of interest is that 'Lithium' has a strummed intro different to the one featured on Nevermind (and most live performances of the song) but common with many versions of the period.
The show itself is very good one of the best the band played in this period. Its main point of interest is the version of 'Come As You Are' performed here, either the best or worst performance of that song ever played depending on who you ask.
On audio: This show was broadcast in entirety on the radio (though 'Territorial Pissings' is spoiled by radio credits) and an audience member also recorded the show in good quality.
On video: Parts of this show have aired in various forms featuring various songs from this broadcast. Also available is a single cam semi-PRO shot from the back of the venue, featuring the entire show. An almost complete multi-cam PRO shot is known to exist for this show but is not currently circulating amongst the trading community. PRO-shot footage from this show also appears on the 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' video release, for more information see Live Nirvana's 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' guide.
19th November 1991, Castle Theatre, Rome Italy
Songs featured on compilation: Spank Thru (Track #9).
Songs also played at this show: Drain You, Aneurysm, School, Floyd The Barber, Smells Like Teen Spirit, About A Girl, Polly, Lithium, Sliver, Come As You Are, Breed, Been A Son, Negative Creep, On A Plain, Blew, Rape Me and Territorial Pissings.
Review: Many Nirvana fans were at the time unfamiliar with this song when it appeared on this disc. It is in fact the first recorded appearance of Nirvana featuring as it did on Sub Pop 200 compilation. The version featured is unusual in that it is taken from one of the few appearances the song made on shows later than 1990 (though it was on almost every set list before). The version featured here is like many on this compilation good but not great and delving further into the Nirvana archives would surely have yielded a better version.
The show itself is in our opinion not a particularly good one, the band hardly seem to put much effort into playing and this song is not really typical of the below par standard that most of the songs are delivered in.
Also Available: There is a very nice PRO-shot video of this show available in low generation (with enough searching!), that features all the songs bar 'Drain You' which seems to be missing on every known copy. The full set though is available in audio form on the 'Seattle Sound, Sounds Great' bootleg.
28th December 1991, Del Mar Fairgrounds, CA
Songs featured on compilation: Drain You (Track #3), Aneurysm (Track #4) and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Track #5).
Songs also played at this show: School, Floyd The Barber, About A Girl, Polly, Sliver, Breed, Come As You Are, Lithium and Territorial Pissings.
Review: The songs featured are culled from the Westwood One radio broadcast of the show, one of a handful of dates the band did supporting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The songs used are all strong performances of commonly played songs. 'Drain You' is interesting, featuring an alternate introduction possibly due to Kurt using a different effect on his guitar that is as far as we know unique to this show. But otherwise a fairly standard run through. 'Aneurysm' is good as well but nothing spectacular. The band however tears through their most popular song, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Clocking in at around 4 minutes 30 a full 30 seconds quicker than the album version, it is a lively and very energetic performance of a song that was played with little enthusiasm for the most part throughout the rest of the band's career.
The show these songs came from is a good performance. The band, playing second on a bill including the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam performs a short set, consisting of most of the bands hit songs of the time. This is a strong performance by a band at the peak of both their powers and popularity and is well worth checking out. It should be noted here that most collectors of live Nirvana feel that the New Year's Eve show played at Cow Palace in San Francisco clearly outstrips this show in performance.
Also available: This show has featured on many bootlegs mostly in incomplete form (being complete only on 'The Eternal Legacy'). Also circulating is another version of the show taken from a monitor tape that whilst incomplete and inferior in sound quality features 'Floyd The Barber' that is sadly missing from most versions sourced from the radio broadcast. It should also be noted that 'Polly' and 'Sliver' from this show can be found on the 'In Bloom' single release.
10th November 1993, Civic Center, Springfield, MA
Songs featured on compilation: Sliver (Track #8)
Songs also played at this show: Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants, About A Girl, Heart Shaped Box, Dumb, In Bloom, Come As You Are, Lithium, Pennyroyal Tea, School, Polly, Milk It, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings, Smells Like Teen Spirit, All Apologies, On A Plain, Scentless Apprentice and Blew.
Review: This is perhaps the most surprising inclusion on the compilation, a frankly mediocre version of one of the most popular Nirvana songs. Kurt seems to be fighting with his voice throughout the track and the band doesn't play the song as tightly as usual.
The show itself is a good 'In Utero' show containing good performances and a lot of humour . The main highlight is Kurt's screw up in 'Dumb' along with his self-depreciating comments afterwards.
Also available: This show was recorded in good quality on an audience DAT audio and is relatively easy to find in low generation.
13th December 1993, Pier 48, Seattle, WA
Songs featured on compilation: Scentless Apprentice (Track #10)
Songs also played at this show: Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants, Rape Me, Sliver, Pennyroyal Tea, All Apologies, Heart-Shaped Box, Blew, The Man Who Sold The World, School, Come As You Are, Lithium, About A Girl and Endless, Nameless
Review: This was recorded as a New Year's Eve feature for MTV's 'Live and Loud' series. Nirvana were playing as part of a sort of 'grunge' special featuring most of the popular bands of the time including Pearl Jam (who pulled out owing to singer Eddie Vedder's illness) and the Breeders. Sounding very close to the album version the song featured is arguably the definitive version of one of the harshest tracks on 'In Utero'.
The show itself is one of our personal favourites featuring excellent versions of almost every song they play. Many people believe this to be one of the best shows Nirvana played on the US In Utero tour.
Also Available: MTV showed a heavily edited version of this show featuring 'Scentless Apprentice' amongst others though sadly omitting the David Bowie cover 'The Man Who Sold The World'. This has been shown several times on MTV over the years and should be easy to pick up in low generation. The other version of this video is an audience shot rumoured shot by none other than 'Hole' guitarist Eric Erlandson. It is for the most part circulating in extremely poor quality and is not recommended unless you are a serious collector.
30th December 1993, Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA
Songs featured on compilation: Heart Shaped Box (Track #11).
Songs also played at this show: Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants, Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit , Sliver, Dumb, In Bloom, About A Girl, Lithium, Pennyroyal Tea, School, Polly, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings, Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam, The Man Who Sold the World, All Apologies, On a Plain and Blew.
Review: 'Heart Shaped Box' is undoubtedly one of the best Nirvana songs out there and as such any version played semi-competently is going to sound great. Baring this in mind this version is rather average and can be found better executed on many 'In Utero' shows.
The show itself is very good, captured in surprisingly good quality. Well worth finding.
Audio: There are both analog and DAT audience recording of this show the former being considered superior quality over the latter.
Video: There is a good quality audience-shot video currently circulating that is well worth your time.
7th January 1994, Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA
Songs featured on compilation: Milk It (Track #12)
Songs also played at this show: Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, Drain You, Breed, Serve The Servants Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sliver, Dumb, In Bloom, About A Girl, Lithium, Pennyroyal Tea, School, Polly, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings, Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam, The Man Who Sold The World, All Apologies, On A Plain, Scentless Apprentice, Heart-Shaped Box and Blew.
Review: A very good version of a song that most people were surprised was included on the compilation (you only have to read the lyric sheet to work out why). The version here proves why it was included, loud and powerful the extreme emotions this song conveys are delivered with a passion and intent that does full justice to one of Nirvana's most underrated songs.
The show itself is on par with the song, long clocking in at 95 minutes, it features a great performance by the band.
Also Available: There is a great DAT recording of this show going around in low generation in trading circles, that is well worth picking up.
NB. It should also be noted that the date listed on the booklet that accompanies this CD which lists this show as the 5th January 1994 is incorrect the true date this show was played is the 7th January 1994.
31st October 1991, Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
Songs featured on compilation: Negative Creep (Track #13).
Songs also played at this show: Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam, Aneurysm, Drain You, School, Floyd The Barber, Smells Like Teen Spirit, About A Girl, Polly, Breed, Sliver, Love Buzz, Lithium, Been A Son, On A Plain, Blew, Rape Me, Territorial Pissings and Endless, Nameless
Review: A quite frankly awesome 'Negative Creep' drawn from Nirvana's hometown Halloween show. Dave's drumming adds a power to the song simply not present on the original recording.
The show itself is also very good, frequently funny the band delivers an energetic and lively performance. Highly unusual considering the heavy touring and promotional schedule the band was under.
Also Available: The video has long rumoured to exist but has not yet surfaced to the Nirvana community. A full soundboard audio is however around and can be found on numerous bootleg releases. 'School' and 'Drain You' from this show can be found on the 'Come As You Are' single release. PRO-shot footage from this show also appears on the 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' video release and for more information see Live Nirvana's 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' guide.
30th August 1992, Reading Festival, Reading, UK
Songs featured on compilation: tourette's (Track #16).
Songs also played at this show: Breed, Drain You, Aneurysm, School, Sliver, In Bloom, Come As You Are, Lithium, About A Girl, Polly, Lounge Act, More Than A Feeling, Smells Like Teen Spirit, On A Plain, Negative Creep, Been A Son, All Apologies, Blew, Dumb, Stay Away, Spank Thru, Love Buzz, The Money Will Roll Right In, D-7, Territorial Pissings, Star-Spangled Banner (jam).
Review: Probably the only true rarity on display 'tourette's' which featured in only 3 Nirvana shows that we know of is delivered here with the customary ferocity. It features alternate lyrics (yes these are different indecipherable lyrics) and is not available on any radio broadcast (unsurprisingly).
About the show itself so much has already been said so we'll just put it simply: the best Nirvana show we have ever heard.
Audio: There are 2 incomplete radio broadcast sadly missing all the rarities but essential for any Nirvana fan, two different audience recordings and a very nice full audio made up of a number of sources.
Video: There is a 6 song PRO-shot TV version of the show, 3 different audience shots and footage from this show has also appeared on a few short TV specials. PRO-shot footage from this show also appears on the 'Live Tonight! Sold Out' video release (for more information see Live Nirvana's 'Live Tonight! Sold Out!' guide).