It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
Nirvana is so firmly entrenched in the rock pantheon at this point that it can be easy to forget who the band actually was: Three punks who could absolutely fucking shred. Even though the power-chord riffs have been burned into every fumbling adolescents’ brain for decades now, those songs have an absolute buzz-saw intensity when you see the band actually play them live. It’s worth revisiting occasionally to remind yourself how good they really were.
It doesn’t get much better, as far as film quality and raw power, than the 1991 show at the Paramount in Seattle, which has been preserved in majestic high-definition in its entirety on YouTube. Dave Grohl’s a lithe torso, a mop of hair, and a bunch of CGI limbs pounding on the drums; Krist Novoselic looks positively gigantic, bouncing around with his guitar slung to his knees; and, of course, there’s Kurt Cobain, endlessly magnetic even as he seems to be pulling away from the audience with each word. There are flubbed notes galore on the above performance of “Territorial Pissings,” along with the sardonic freakout vocals that define the song, but they’re part and parcel with the sheer athleticism of the performance, all razor-blade distortion and battering-ram percussion.
Compare that with the same band three years later, their sound fleshed out with Pat Smear on back-up guitars so Cobain can just drop his halfway through and focus more directly on unleashing that eye-bleeding howl. Even the band’s wedding-server outfits seem to be mocking their newfound professionalism, but beneath all the gloss they’re the same ferocious band they always were.