Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!
Now Available on DVD
They were so young. When Nevermind came out in 1991, Kurt Cobain was 24, Krist Novoselic was 26, and Dave Grohl was 22. I know, that's a simple observation—but it's the one that hits hardest on the DVD Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! Originally conceived by Cobain in '92, then released on VHS by Grohl, Novoselic, and music video director Kevin Kerslake in '94, the loose, rambling film hit DVD earlier this month, packed with performances of 21 songs (several of which weren't on the VHS version), 5.1 sound, and a digital remastering.
But technical specifications are secondary to the youth, the energy, and the fact that this disc collects some pretty vital footage of the last earnest rock band that mattered. For me to say that Nirvana changed my life is for me to join a ridiculously large club; everyone in the mid-'90s felt the sludgy wave of grunge that swept out of Seattle. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" mattered then, and it matters now—but watching the band grow tired of it (even as the glossy magazine covers featuring the trio pile up) is a wholly different act now than it was then. Sure, the shotgun blast heard 'round the Rolling Stone offices changed that—watching a clearly fucked-up Cobain mutter through a Headbangers Ball interview, or watching him pretend to die onstage, feels far heavier now with the weight of Cobain's suicide. But as unavoidable as his inevitable suicide is throughout Live!, it's hardly the focus: The rough, grainy footage follows Nirvana as they tear through sets on their post-Nevermind world tour. The music's great, but the incidental stuff is better: weird foreign interviews, news blurbs hosted by Kurt Loder, candid backstage moments, sterile arena concerts alongside grimy club shows, Novoselic bouncing around like a possessed skeleton, Grohl pounding his drums with astonishing force. As an archival document, Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! is fascinating. But as a reminder of why Nirvana was and is important, it's indispensable.