Last August marked the 25th anniversary of what is arguably one of the most famous performances in alternative-rock history, Nirvana’s headlining performance of the 1992 Reading Festival in England. Now, Dave Grohl has looked back at the performance, remarking at the “magical” nature of the experience.
Back in the middle of 1992, Nirvana had embarked upon a European tour, their second bout of touring since the release of their breakthrough album Nevermind in September of 1991. Arguably the biggest date on this tour was to be the group’s headlining performance at England’s Reading Festival, however, this performance almost didn’t happen.
At the time, Kurt Cobain was suffering through his continuing addiction to heroin, and rumours about the band’s future – and their headlining spot – began to circulate. As we now know, the group eventually did take to the stage for what would be not only their last concert in the UK, but also one of the most memorable gigs in the entire history of the band.
Now, speaking to Kerrang!, Dave Grohl has looked back on that day, recalling the “triumphant but melancholy” of the gig.
“I remember showing up to Reading ’92 and there being so many rumours that we weren’t going to play, that we had cancelled, Grohl explained. “I walked backstage and some of my best friends in bands that were opening would see me and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I’d go, ‘We’re fucking headlining!’ And they’d be like, ‘You’re actually going to play?!’ I didn’t realise there was any question that we were going to play.”
“I knew within myself I was questioning if we could play, but I knew we were going to try.”
“The show was a really reassuring, genuinely magical moment of everything coming together at the right time,” he continued. “I think we had practised once, the day before, and I just didn’t know if we could pull it off. That happened a bunch of times in Nirvana, where you’d think, ‘God, this is going to be a fucking disaster,’ and then it would turn out to be something beautiful.”
“So yeah, it went great, but it’s sad that that’s the last time we ever played England, because it could have been better. We just didn’t play England enough, I don’t think.”
“The memory is somewhat triumphant but melancholy, because we never came back.”
While the gig was famous among Nirvana fans for a number years, thanks in part to Kurt Cobain’s stage entrance by way of a wheelchair, the gig was eventually released on DVD and CD back in 2009, finally allowing fans to trade in their old, worn-out bootlegs and upgrade to something of a bit higher quality.