The Australian and Far East Tour the band were to embark on was the final dates of the band's 6 months tour supporting Nevermind. The Nevermind tour had proved the most gruelling of the band's history. For a band that had been inactive for the most part of a year, the 6 months almost solid touring would have withered even the most hardened of souls. For a band that had just broken commercially in spectacular fashion and which contained an individual as fragile as Kurt Cobain, it would cause lasting ramifications that would lead to the band itself and Kurt in particular to dread every tour that they were to subsequently go on.
It was a tour that one might say the band no longer needed to do. The astonishing sales of Nevermind would have meant most bands rescheduling their tour dates to take into account their increase in size. They were now able to play much larger venues, play a lot less often and still rake in much more money. In fact it may be said many fans were probably willing them to do so, such was the over subscription for tickets for the band's shows. The band were subsequently to play larger venues, but only in support of the band's final release In Utero at a time when many felt that as a live act at least the band were past their peak.
Unsurprisingly before it had even started many had their doubts as to whether this tour was a wise move as Azerrad 1993 illustrates. "People in the band's inner circle began to question wondering if going on tour at that point was the right thing to do. "Everybody knew that it wasn't" says Dave. "Kurt knew that it wasn't, I knew that it wasn't, Chris knew that it wasn't. Maybe we didn't know within the first few dates of the tour, but after a week and a half, sure, everybody knew it wasn't. Shows were all right; we got through the set every night. But if Kurt wants something (drugs) he'll do anything to get it." "It took a lot of courage for him to do that tour Dave adds. "He felt like shit, looked like shit, but he got over it, he worked it out."
Despite the doubts the tour still went ahead as planned. Nirvana arrived in Australia on the 23rd January 1992, Murray Engleheart writing in a tour diary published in Kerrang notes that Kurt had made himself at home by mutating the please do not disturb sign in his hotel room into a very punk rock "please burn down my room". Murray also remembers that there was a reception that day in the label's Sydney office but only Dave and Chris show up as Kurt stays in his hotel room with a stomach complaint.
After recording an interview with JJJ radio the band played their first show of the tour, their first in Australia at the Phoenecian Club in Sydney. The show, a sell out saw a relatively poor performance from the band as Kurt struggled with guitar problems throughout the performance and played poorly for the most part.
For the next show the band was to play the opening date at the inaugural Big Day Out Festival, which has now mutated into the world's largest touring festival. Playing the 6,000 capacity Hodern Pavilions the band's performance is once again a disappointment, sounding flat and muted; it would appear that the band is still trying to find its feet.
The next day's show at the Fisherman's Wharf on the Gold Coast remains sadly at the time of writing unsurfaced in any form. Grohl would recall this date many years later as one of the fun elements of this tour as the band decided to hire Jet Skis, which they used to career around the Pacific Ocean. According to Grohl the band was having such a good time they totally forgot about the show and only made it back just in time to play the show!
The fun was not to last, as Kurt's stomach complaint forced the band to cut short the next date in Brisbane, Australia. The band's next show in Freemantle was also cancelled, again due to Kurt's illness. Craig Montgomery later recalled to Carrie Borzillo that these cancellations further heightened tensions within the band. "There was some bad shit," remembers Craig Montgomery. "Cancelling the show in Perth, that was pretty bad news." When asked how Chris and Dave reacted to this, Craig says, "There was tension because of that. So yeah, they'd be pissed off at having to miss shows. Days that we would cancel a show would be bad."
Kurt had though done his best to be healthy for the tour having decided to detox for the tour. Partly perhaps through guilt about Courtney's pregnancy and partly as Kurt doubted he could get a regular supply of heroin in Australia and Japan. Although Kurt was off drugs his stomach pain, aggravated by the pressures of touring was beginning to take its toll. As Kurt notes in his journal the stomach problems he had became chronic "the pain left me immobile, doubled-up on the bathroom floor, vomiting water and blood. I was literally starving to death. My weight was down to about 100 pounds." Kurt had Azerrad (1993) noted considered taking a plane home, but not for the first time he relented.
It appears that around this time tensions surrounding the band were high. Despite Kurt assuring everyone around him that he was off drugs, few it would seem believed that his stomach pain was at the centre of his problems. Shelli Novoselic who accompanied the band on the tour decided to confront Kurt about his suspected drug use, a story Kurt later related to Michael Azerrad. Shelli apparently walked up to Kurt while he was sitting on the hotel steps doubled up in pain and told him that she "couldn't stand what he was doing to himself" implying that Kurt's drug use was the cause of his difficulties. Kurt understandably was not amused at this implication and stated "I just wanted to fucking punch her in the face because, just like everyone else, she assumed I was doing drugs… I'll never forget those words because it just defined everyone's attitude towards me. Every time that I wasn't even doing drugs, they suspected I was."
Shelli wasn't the only one showing concern. Alex Macleod the band's tour manager related to Azerrad (1993) his concerns about Kurt during this period. "I didn't like what I was seeing in someone I had so much love and respect for. I was really scared more than anything else, constantly. Scared of what he was going to do, who he was going to hook up with." Macleod ironically was also responsible in part for Kurt's relapse, mistakenly telling the doctor when Kurt was admitted at hospital that he was still detoxing. This led the 'rock doctor' to prescribe Kurt methadone, which as Kurt noted wryly is called Physeptone in Australia, leading Kurt to believe that they were "stomach pills."
After the Perth cancellation the band continued the tour by playing a date in Adelaide followed by a 3-night stand in Melbourne at the Palace of which the last date has yet to surface. The shows that have surfaced sadly have few highlights and feature largely undistinguished, perfunctionary performances from a band that seemed to be a band going through the motions.
After these dates came another cancelled date at the Dee Why Hotel in Sydney on the 4th, omens for the rest of the tour would not appear to be good. It would appear that the band was fast approaching burn out. However, the cancelled date added to the day off the band had scheduled for the day before meant that the band had two days off to recuperate and gather strength to continue with the upcoming dates.
The show at the ANU Bar in Canberra is ample illustration of what Nirvana could achieve as a band when properly rested the performance given is one of the best I have ever heard. The band plays with energy and vigour they had not even shown hints of before. From mediocrity the band were to give in my opinion one of the finest performances of their career.
The tour of Australia ended with 2 nights in Selina's in Sydney on the 6th and 7th February. The first night sees a large dip in performance from the night previously and is mostly it must be said rather forgettable. The next night though the band would regain their touch and put in a stunning performance best remembered for a haunting electric version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night, providing a stunning finale to what had been a difficult tour.
After Australia the band would play a few dates in Japan, which like Australia they were playing for the first and last time.
Japan to many Westerners is a strange and confusing place with a very different way of life. It is unsurprising given the band's culturally limited upbringing that Japan's customs proved confusing, something Kurt would later to relate to Cake when being interviewed for Flipside. "Well it was just a continuation of our other tour, and by then I was just a walking zombie, I didn't have many emotions left. But still, playing live was enough, it made me feel good. Especially in Japan because the environment was so different than anywhere else, we were playing clubs to a couple of thousand people… all in seated areas; the kids weren't allowed to leave their seats. There were like 30 bouncers with three piece suits to restrain any kids who were having too much fun. You play a song and then they clap … politely, then there was dead air, it was really bizarre!
Despite Kurt's zombie admission the shows went relatively ok. "The shows were all pretty consistent," says soundman Craig Montgomery when asked by Borzillo about the tour. "Shonen Knife came and visited, but they didn't play. They' had a really bad time in Australia, drug-wise, Kurt and Courtney, so I was just grooving on being in Japan now. I barely saw Kurt except for the shows, and he wasn't doing sound checks at this time."
According to Cross, Kurt, despite his physical and emotional struggles adored Japan, sharing the nation's obsession with kitsch. "He was in a completely foreign country, and he was fascinated with the culture," recalled Virgin Publishing's Kaz Utsunomiya, who was on tour. He loved cartoons and 'Hello Kitty.' " Kurt didn't understand why the Japanese fans gave him presents, but announced that he would only accept 'Hello Kitty' gifts. The next day, he was deluged with trinkets. Before a gig outside Tokyo, Utsonmiya had to help Kurt buy new pyjamas. When Kurt told the salesman he wanted to wear the pyjamas onstage, the staid clerk looked at the singer like he was truly insane.
Japan also afforded Kurt the opportunity to meet up with one of his all time favourite touring partners Shonen Knife. The 2 bands meeting in Osaka was recorded for the Rapido a UK TV show. On the brief footage the bands sit opposite each other on a table while Kurt explains why he likes the band. According to Cross, Shonen Knife like the other Japanese fans gave Kurt gifts consisting of toy swords, a new motorised Chim Chim monkey, and took him for dinner at a bratwurst restaurant he had selected. He was disappointed to learn that Shonen Knife had a gig the next night, as did Nirvana. Uncharacteristically Kurt ended the set early and announced from the stage that he was going to see Shonen Knife. Leaving the venue his car was mobbed by Japanese girls grasping at the car, just wanting to touch it. At the Shonen Knife show, things were just surreal, because as the only blonde haired, blue eyed boy there, he was easy to spot. "He was still wearing his pyjamas" remembered Shonen Knife's Naoko Yamono.
It would seem by all accounts that Japan, was seen by the band as a way of resting and recouping after the Australian tour. The band found that in Japan they were not subject to the same scrutiny and adulation that they found in the rest of the world and perhaps even more importantly Kurt was unable to obtain a supply of heroin.
The shows themselves are largely good, none of them feature classic performances and few are likely to feature amongst collectors favourite shows, but they are like Craig Montgomery said "pretty consistent" with good, if not exactly memorable performances. The performances are reasonably strong and show a marked improvement on the most part patchy Australian tour. Kurt once again appears to be having difficulties with his vocals and it is only in the final show in Tokyo that this is resolved by Kurt taking a more laid back approach to his vocals which has the effect of making the show the best if the tour.
The Hawaiian trip is remembered largely for Kurt and Courtney's wedding which took place on Waikiki beach with a few collected guests on the 24th February 2 days after the final show. Craig Montgomery remembers that "Most of us went home by the time of the wedding. They were keeping it very, very private. There was a lot of tension within the band." The wedding according to Cross was supposed to have been held on Valentines day but was delayed as negotiations continued towards Kurt and Courtney's prenuptial agreement that he asserts was instigated by Kurt under pressure from John Silva and not by Courtney as she previously stated. This was done to protect Kurt's future earnings against the failure of the Cobains' marriage. This delay is interesting as it suggests that Courtney was not as complicit as she led the press to believe about their prenuptial agreement.
The wedding was hastily arranged with Kurt flying in Dylan Carlson to act as best man. Dylan brought his girlfriend who joined the small wedding party that consisted of Dave, tour manager Alex Macleod, soundman Ian Beveridge, guitar tech Nick Close, Dylan and his girlfriend. Among those present but not invited included Krist and Shelli Novoselic, Dave Grohl's then girlfriend and Barrett Jones, Barrett's girlfriend and any members of the couples families. Dylan despite being Kurt's best friend had not yet met Courtney and was flown in partly to act as best man, partly to score Kurt some heroin, of which Kurt had a little bit supposedly to avoid getting sick.
According to Shelli interviewed for Heavier Than Heaven, she and Krist both assumed after this very public snub that the band had now broken up after the incident she notes that "Kurt was in his own world at that point. After that, I was pretty estranged with him. It was never the same. We talked about the direction of the band somewhat but there really was no direction of the band after that." Cross notes that Kurt and Krist did not see each other for 2 months and the band would not perform for another four months.
Little exist of the Hawaiian shows bar brief clips of the band's 2nd show on a Spanish TV special and Negative Creep and the introduction to Smells Like Teen Spirit from the same show on LTSO. LTSO shows the band start Smells Like Teen Spirit then abort the song after around 10 seconds as Kurt it seems cannot bring himself to perform the hit. Krist simply says "we're are going to miss that one" to the boos of the crowd.
Despite this the performances themselves seem ok based on the little footage we have and the show seems rather reminiscent of the shows in the Japanese tour. Among the footage circulating is footage of the shows finale. These show Kurt dressed simply in his pyjamas, trying to put his guitar through his amp and then through his monitor as well spewing water onto the front rows of the audience.
Also included in the footage is a rare interview with the band, which is transcribed below.
Interviewer: "Do you feel the same attitude of the audience everywhere in Australia, or in Japan, in the USA is it different?
Dave: Well… it's strange in Australia it's kind of like England… and New Zealand is just sort of strange… Japan is strange, Japan is really strange because when you play in Japan there's so much security and there's usually one barrier in front of the stage so people can't jump on stage but in Japan they have a barriers like barrier on the stage and a barrier here and a barrier there and they are all in sections and it is SO weird. And then in other places, in most places in Japan and you have to understand that you can't move out of your seat and you just have to sit in your seat and do this… (Dave waves his hands in the air) and it's just so strange for us as we sit out there and look at all these people out there who should be standing… I'm mean sitting in their seats its really strange.
Krist has by this point wondered over to join Dave.
Interviewer: Hello. Hi. Do you like to provoke the audience?
Krist: No… they provoke us! They do.
Interviewer: We talk about the difference in the attitude.
Dave: About Japan and how they...
Krist (interrupting): Oh the Japanese they just (nods head and claps).
Dave: I mean its weird though if they if they were allowed to freak out I am sure they would go totally insane they really would but there's just so much control its...
Interviewer: Too much?
Dave: Too much, yeah WAY too much control.
Interviewer: In this months you have become a very important group everywhere also in Spain. What do you think of the attitude towards your music for instance in Spain or Italy.
Krist: Music is the international language.
Krist: Yeah you know Rock and Roll has been around for 30 years... and you know its just a beat and we have got that beat, we have got that beat
Interviewer: Is it just the music? As because a lot of people look for the experience, what you say but music is just music.
Dave: I mean music is not just music it is energy if you see a lot of energy on stage you don't have to say anything you know as if there's energy in the crowd there's energy on stage, you know its just a vibe you know it's just a feeling.
Krist: There's a lot of bands out there and a lot of them just take up space you know they don't put anything to the audience they don't give out energy, passion or feeling.
Interviewer: You give have a lot of that on stage.
Dave: Now, in the next couple of years you'll hear a lot more bands like Urge Overkill, The Melvins, Mudhoney, Hole, Sonic Youth, who are the godfathers of everything you know. You'll see a lot of new bands, honest bands that have a lot of sincerity and not contrived, not like heavy metal bands on stage 20 metres away.
Dave: Because it's just false, it's not true they have the wrong motivation a lot of heavy metal bands see it as an opportunity to earn money. They don't do it to make good honest music to write songs they don't care about writing songs.
Interviewer: In your group melody is very important to your songs but what's the importance of the lyrics for you?
Krist: Well, Kurt writes the lyrics and I have my own interpretation. You see I think songs have a different meaning for everybody, I like songs not by my group but I like old songs, new songs by other bands have a special meaning to me personally. So I really elaborate on the lyrics or the subtle meanings so the songs they write so that they say their own personal thing.
Interviewer: Last question. Who chose the cover of your record, the little baby or how do come to choose the child?
Dave: I dunno.
Krist: Some artist you know put this baby in the pool and followed the child with this camera just swimming in the pool...
Interviewer: Thank you very much.