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Kurt Cobain's Top 5 Live Performances

Posted by Thomas Spillane on


The beginning of this week, Monday the 20th February, would have marked Kurt Cobain’s 50th birthday if he was still alive.

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Known for defining a generation with his music in Nirvana, Cobain was one of a kind. A tortured artist in some respects, a punk purist in others, his music has become famous for marrying the punk aggression of bands like The Stooges and Black Flag, with the pop sensibilities of bands such as The Beatles and ABBA. Cobain gave the world everything he had in his music and it has been a gift to so many generations of kids growing up. So to celebrate the life of the incredibly talented artist, we present his top five performances.

5. "Love Buzz" at Saint Andrew's Hall, Detroit, 1991

Nirvana where known for the raucous live shows that often descended into loud guitar feedback. When they started Nirvana were a punk band through and through and this cover of Shocking Blue’s 1969 song “Love Buzz” illustrates that.

4. "Aneurysm" from Reading Festival, 1992

The Live At Reading set is one of Nirvana’s most infamous. Performed at the height of Nevermind’s popularity, the band took on prisoners during the performance. It is extremely difficult to single out one song from that set to put above all the others, but “Aneurysm” is Nirvana at their most explosive.

3. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" live on Top Of The Pops, 1991 

Nirvana’s performance on Top Of The Pops has to be one of their biggest “fuck you” moments to the music industry. Set to play their biggest hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the British music program, they were told to pretend to play over a backing track with the vocals the only live aspect. Not too impressed by this, Kurt barely touched his guitar, making grand sweeping strums when he did and sang almost an octave lower than usual. Other bandmates, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic also made a parody of their instruments.

2. "Rape Me"/"Lithium" on MTV Music Video Awards, 1992

Similar to the band’s experience at Top Of The Pops, “Lithium” at the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards is another “fuck you” moment from the band. The story goes that Cobain wanted to play Nirvana’s new song, “Rape Me”, but the MTV executives wouldn’t allow it. Instead they opted to play “Lithium” but not before Cobain sang the first four bars of “Rape Me”, just to give MTV a little heart attack.

1. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" from MTV Unplugged

Nirvana’s performance on MTV Unplugged has become one of their most iconic. Only playing few singles, the band opted to mainly play covers and deep cuts from their albums. A cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” closes the performance and is one of Cobain’s most heart wrenching and honest moments.

What are some of your favourite Kurt Cobain moments? Let us know in the comments!

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