Sunday, October 30, 2011

ruminations: nirvana- 'live at the paramount'

Let the 'Nevermind' 20th anniversary madness continue. After having lived with the newly released 'Live at the Paramount' DVD for over a week now I have come to regard it as a treasure. It shows Nirvana in their absolute prime playing a hometown headlining show with Bikini Kill and Mudhoney that can only be described as 'triumphant.' 'This is about big, sweaty redneck men who rape,' Cobain deadpans before launching into an early version of 'Rape Me' which is lit by women in black leotards and clown masks doing a dance routine with handheld spotlights. Simply glorious. Once again time shows us that the band did, indeed, know how to put on a show. Considering the fact that Cobain is so stationary at the microphone stand for so much of the night he thrashes and moves for much of the time he is there which is not to mention all of the rolling-around-on-the-floor moments during the guitar solo in 'Breed.' I've always loved the performances from this show that could be found on the 'Live Tonight: Sold Out' video and DVD. This is probably my favourite 'Polly.' I love how Dave Grohl requests that they play it, clearly because he is in need of a well-earned breather. The Fernandes guitar with the 'Vandalism: Beautiful as a brick in a cop's face' bumper sticker living its final, glorious hour. My eyes get teary during the shot where one of the cameramen manages to get Cobain, Grohl and Krist Novoselic all in the same frame during this song.

They even play several songs from 'Bleach.' I get a similar feeling from this performance footage as from the 'Year Punk Broke' footage- they are clearly enjoying themselves onstage and truly putting everything into what they're doing. Cobain was never one to hold back for any reason- one of the most engaging things about his scream being how torn, ragged and worn-down it could become without losing an ounce of its potentcy. It is the scream of a man who is incapable of holding back. While watching it does carry a bit of a sense of foreboding- there are times when they seem uncomfortable with the immensity of what they now find themselves a part of. There is a bit of that malaise that is captured so clearly (and quite uncomfortably) in the 'Live Tonight: Sold Out' video, but really if you look at the timeline Cobain and Courtney Love aren't married yet, there is no omnipresence of tabloid trashing so far but it is possible (I can't really remember the timeline that clearly) that Cobain has begun his period of extended heroin use.

What remains most important is the ferocity of the performance. Ferocious it definitely is: 19 songs stretched over 72 minutes. Probably the best 'Endless Nameless' live performance. The 'Nevermind' songs burn with an intensity that is missing on the record. 'Aneurysm' has always been a live Nirvana favourite of mine to hear on bootlegs and I always thought it was pretty amazing that they used to open their shows with a B-side. Not just any B-side, mind you, but one that outshines so many other bands' best A-sides. It's also always been a joy to watch this performance as well as the ones in 'The Year Punk Broke' and be able to pick out moments that were inserted into the 'Lithium' video.

My one beef: I'd read reviews saying that the DVD included in the 'Nevermind' 4-disc box set included this performance as well as all of the 'Nevermind'-era videos. I was a bit bummed when this showed up on my doorstep without those videos. I've told my wife about the 'In Bloom' video tons of times but it always ends with me making it sound stupid, kind of like when I would try to describe 'Kids in the Hall' sketches to her. Has to be seen to be believed. The 'Come as You Are' video has also always been a favourite of mine among their videos- probably the first Kevin Kerslake video I'd ever seen of all of his excellent videos (i.e. 'Fade Into You' by Mazzy Star, 'Beauty Lies in the Eye' and 'Shadow of a Doubt' by Sonic Youth).

I'm not sure why I was surprised that I would absolutely love this DVD, but for some reason I put off buying it because I'd heard that the 'Live at Reading' one wasn't that good (I still haven't gotten that one, but I probably will now) and was worried that this live set would be disappointing. One thing I still find mystifying about its existence is why it's taken so long to be released- professionally shot, recorded and mixed by Andy Wallace... why has it taken so long to surface? I'm looking forward to the 20th anniversary of 'In Utero' in two years as I'm hoping they'll release the entire live set from MTV's Live New Years Eve special (yup, MTV used to put together some decent bills for these- New Years Eve 1993-94 was supposed to have Pearl Jam and Nirvana but Pearl Jam pulled out of it at the last minute and Nirvana stepped in and gladly picked up their slack- kind of like they had with 'In Utero' when 'vs.' showed up and was kind of weak) as I think I only saw the whole thing once. Not even my best friend had a video-taped copy of it.

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