02/14/94 - Le Zénith, Paris, FR
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Nirvana's show at the Zenith in Paris has the distinction of being the show where, rumour has it the band was forced to cancel the following nights performance due, it is said to them playing too hard for this particular show. While there is still some debate as to whether this was actually the case it does provide a useful segue into the show that many consider to be the finest of the tour.
It starts off as all the best shows do with a sterling rendition of Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, followed, after a brief greeting to the crowd from Kurt into an equally impressive Drain You. The show continues in the same vain, with the relatively high levels of crowd noise actually adding to the excitement as their enthusiasm is it seems for once matched by the band's own. While Kurt's vocals will never again reach the heights of aching beauty achieved on the band's seminal unplugged performance, but they do through the course of the performance achieve a bludgeoning effectiveness that manages to portray accurately the manic energy contained within the bands songs.
We then reach Come As You Are, the fifth song in the bands set, which manages as it did on Nevermind to achieve a transient beauty that so marks it out from the bludgeoning distorted guitar that comprises of the songs around it. In this case Serve The Servants which proceeds it and Smells Like Teen Spirit, which is to follow.
Dumb drifts by with Melora Craeger's mournful Cello filling in the gaps made by the simple chord progression followed by a spurt of the bands hit songs; In Bloom, About A Girl, Lithium and Pennyroyal Tea which are all effectively dispatched.
With the set reaching the halfway point, the band has, bar the odd bum note heard in Pennyroyal Tea effectively carried the momentum and promise given by the early songs. Kurt has even begun to changing his lyrics with "your in high school again" becoming "your in David Hasselhoff again." This is felt even in the performances of Very Ape and Lounge Act, which although often a disappointment in the live setting, come to life here.
The set ends as it did on the unplugged performance with an acoustic version of Leadbelly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night. At first it seems one step too far for the band as Kurt completely mangles the opening chords. His voice though soon takes over taking the song to its emotional climax, overcoming any bum note he may play, a fitting end to a great set.
This performance though was not to improve Kurt’s mood as Melora remembers. "It was this weird futuristic, stadium place with metal spiral stairs and two different dressing rooms with a party going on below" says Melora. "Kurt just yelled from the balcony, 'I don't drink!' Dave and Krist were there. I think Dave was really good at saying hi to people and do all that industry stuff. After every show, Kurt would just lay down on the couch and wait to leave".
Given the circumstances perhaps one of the best Nirvana shows. Technically it is not perfect, the band have on many occasions played better. The latter shows were as the recordings showed us never really about technical excellence but about transcending (through the passion they put into their performance) all the obstacles that were put in their way. And this show perhaps more than any other shows how close they could come to overcoming everything if only, as it later proved that was just for a few moments.
Review written by Matt Seward 2002