April 5 marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of grunge god Kurt Cobain, leader of Nirvana. The bedevilled rocker died by his own hand, not long after what turned out to be Nirvana’s final world tour — including a Toronto concert stop, Nov. 4, 1993, at Maple Leaf Gardens. Peter Howell was the Star’s rock critic then. Here’s how he reviewed Nirvana’s last Toronto show.
How appropriate that Nirvana began its encore at Maple Leaf Gardens last night with the Vaselines’ obscurity “Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam.”
It was stating the obvious, after a nearly 90-minute show that was at times as interesting as a five-alarm fire, other times as lifeless as an oil painting and at all times a study in the sullen behaviour of leader Kurt Cobain.
Mr. Sunbeam, he ain’t, and if it’s possible for him to be crabbier than usual, this was the night.
It was easy to think that, after watching him swing his guitar and knock the head off one of his life-size X-ray angel statues, part of the cheery stage decorations that included three dead trees.
Article Continued Below
And Nirvana, which also features the rhythm section of Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, plus guest guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston, didn’t play its biggest hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
We were apparently being snubbed, despite the fact the house was sold out at 8,500 heads — one of the biggest venues of Nirvana’s current tour — and the fans were more enthusiastic than the Montreal crowd I saw earlier this week.
Maybe we should expect this from guys whose current single, “Heart-Shaped Box,” comes with the tasty line, “I wish I could eat your cancer, when you turn black.”
Black Moods ‘R’ Us. Think of Nirvana as the Beatles with their amps turned up, and singing only T.S. Eliot poetry, and you get the idea.
But it is also a powerfully rocking unit, when it wants to be, as heard in such concert highlights as “School” (the best song Jimmy Page didn’t write), “Territorial Pissings” and “On A Plain.”
And “All Apologies” was one of the better ballads, which was positioned as the last song of the main set, where it works better than as an encore tune.
Nirvana should try to reach more peaks and fewer valleys, if the guys really want to live up to their boast of being “flower sniffin’, kitty pettin’, baby kissin’ corporate rock whores.”
Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm