On April 8, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle greenhouse. Twenty years later, he remains the definitive Seattle artist in the eyes of many around the globe. While he wasn't around long, he left an indelible musical and cultural legacy.
In memory of Cobain, here are a 10 of his best performances...
Let's just get this out of the way and start with the greatest Nirvana performance of all-time, which is actually just satirical performance art. When the band was asked to fake playing along to an recording of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (with only the vocal being live) for BBC's Top of the Pops, the guys decided to make a mockery of the whole thing. Cobain croons with a cheesy baritone, the guys make zero effort to look like they're actually playing the correct notes, and it all devolves into a frenzy with fans dancing on stage. While it's overshadowed by his ultimate tragedy, let's not forget that Kurt Cobain had a wicked sense of humor.
For real performances, early Nirvana doesn't get much better than this practice space (Krist Novoselic's mom's basement to be precise) recording of "Love Buzz," the Shocking Blue cover that served as the band's first single.
Nirvana was invited to perform at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. The band wanted to play its new song "Rape Me." Skittish MTV executives weren't too keen on the idea. Kurt, Krist, and Dave eventually caved, but when it came time for the live performance they launched into "Rape Me" to make the network squirm for a few seconds before playing "Lithium." (Bonus humor: In addition to the Grohl's fantastically mocking repetition of "Hi Axl!" at the set's end, make sure to check out Krist Novoselic basically knocking himself out at the 4:10 mark with a botched bass toss.)
Nirvana would eventually get to play "Rape Me" on television (network television at that) when it was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.
While he publically railed against pop stardom (while obviously courting it), there's no denying Cobain's love for '70s pop rock. The liberal use of the "More Than a Feeling" riff for "Smells Like Teen Spirt" is the most popular example, but this cover of the Cars' hit "My Best Friend's Girl" at a German concert is even sweeter.
This recap needs at least a small dose of the band actually playing concerts in Seattle, so here's "Silver" from the '91 show at the Paramount Theatre...
...and "Drain You" from their performance at Pier 48 in 1993 which was taped for MTV's Live and Loud.
A compilation of Nirvana videos wouldn't be complete without at least one video from MTV Unplugged. Here's the band's always haunting cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World."
And for good measure, here's the definative version of "All Apologies," also from MTV Unplugged.
To finish things off, here's Nirvana's full set at Reading Festival 1992. This performance has been lauded by more than a few British publications as the greatest festival set ever. From the moment Cobain is wheeled out in a hospital gown (playing off rumors of major health issues at the time), he unleashes the fury, energy, and melody that made him a star.