03/08/91 Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, B.C.

SOUNDS - April 6th, 1991.

Nirvana concert review

By Nils Bernstein.

Oh, Seattle's not so fun anymore. It's the big music mecca cos we've broken all these great bands, and now, for that very reason, we never get to see them anymore cos they're always on tour. Which leaves us, predictably, with lots of mediocre bands who exist solely because, as "Seattle bands", they can get away with it.

So tonight's a big deal, the first Northwest shows as major label artists by the always underrated Screaming Trees, and Nirvana, who's quickly becoming the greatest band on Earth. Seattle's finest, literally.

Kicking off tonight with an adjective-defying greatest hits triad of 'Love Buzz', 'Sliver'' and 'Dive', Nirvana set the tone for a relentless and crowd pleasing evening. They forgo some of their best covers (The Wipers' 'D-7' especially) as well as their more (yep) melodic and instantly memorable newer stuff (the unreleased 'In Bloom' and 'Immodium' are actually requested) but do play everything on 'Bleach', to the delight of a whopping 1,500 fans.

Bassist Chris really is amazing, a lumbering giant banging so hard he's even breaking strings, while new drummer Dave Grohl is a real find, raising the intensity level still more. And Kurdt, proudly sporting his Sounds sweatshirt, is at his most orgasmic, moving me to later drunkenly promise to do his dishes for a week if he'll just sing me a page of the phone book. Big mistake, but what the hell.

Speaking of drummers (and we were), expectations are high for the Trees' new one, Dan Peters, on permanent loan from Mudhoney. And what a difference a Dan makes! Bringing a distinctive flourish to their sexy and pliable Cream/Doors sound, he kicks these songs into wailing Mudhoneyesque overdrive. A good anchor is welcome, too, what with an overly wah wahed Gary Lee's fetal writhing and hurling his hefty bod onto the crowd. A blast to watch, but sloppy and a bit Spinal Tap-ish.

By contrast, singer Mark Lanegan (he of brooding delivery and last year's sensitive solo opus) is even sillier, fill of mock-Morrisonisms, stumbling for his mineral water, hunched over and caressing the mike stand, expressionless the whole while. Please. And yes, he's all twilight, shadows and staircases, but the romantic and gritty tunes are mini-masterpieces of controlled psychedelic insanity, ranging from the pretty and perhaps too Doors-y 'Bed Of Roses' and 'Disappearing' to the Ride-like collidopop of 'Ocean Of Confusion' and 'Alice Said'.

Mr "Encore? Never!" Lanegan ends the set abruptly, a downer till Van Conner saves the day. Having just come off a brief bass stint with Dinosaur Jr, the poor guy isn't exactly dealing with rational singers lately, so who can blame him for taking matters into his own hands. "Hey folks, this is Matt and Steve. They're in a band called Mudhoney." (Psychotic crowd squeals.) And right into a massive version of 'In 'N' Out Of Grace', Van playing Howling Rock God on the drum riser, and the rest of 'em ending up in a sweaty heap.

Some loser rubbing his snot in my face calls it "the penultimate Seattle rock experience". Guess so.