By Brian Ives
Minds were blown last week when surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic got together to perform songs by their former band for the first time since Kurt Cobain walked the earth, about two decades ago.
First, they performed (along with former touring guitarist and Grohl’s fellow Foo Fighter Pat Smear) at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Thursday night (April 10), joined by Joan Jett (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth (“Aneurysm”), Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent (“Lithium”) and Lorde (“All Apologies”). Later that night, they performed a longer set at Brooklyn metal bar St. Vitus with Jett, Gordon and Clark (Lorde had to fly to California for her scheduled performance at Coachella), along with J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. and John McCauley of Deer Tick (he also fronts a Nirvana tribute band, “Deervana”).
“Kurt loved PJ Harvey,” Grohl told RS. “We had always imagined playing our song ‘Milk It’ from In Utero with her. It’s a twisted song, almost like something that could have been on her record Rid of Me, which was also produced by Steve Albini [who produced In Utero]. It just seemed to pair up so well. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it.”
The former bandmates came up with the idea of the tribute about eight weeks before the big night, which called for a bit of preparation. “I picked up a Nirvana tab book a week before to re-learn my parts,” Novoselic said.
For Grohl’s part, he had to re-acclimate himself with the physical rigors of playing drums for Nirvana: “I haven’t played those drum parts since I was 25. I’m 45 now. We played for 10 fucking hours each day,” over two long days of rehearsals. “After the first night of rehearsals, I limped home, had two glasses of wine, three Advil, took a hot shower and slept for 10 fucking hours. That’s a coma for me, because I never sleep.”
One song that didn’t make the long induction ceremony (which went overtime by about an hour) was an all-star finale of AC/DC‘s “Highway To Hell,” a song that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have been playing on their tour (the E Street Band were also inducted that night, and performed prior to Nirvana). Novoselic was glad that that part of the program got cut: “I wasn’t into it,” he says. “I love AC/DC and I love Bruce Springsteen. I grew up listening to them. But we kept saying, ‘We have the big finale. We have our finale!'” Indeed, anything would have been anticlimactic after that performance.
An edited version of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction (which hopefully will include the full length versions of all the Nirvana performances) will air on HBO on May 31. But will anyone, other than the select few who got to St. Vitus, ever get to see their after-hours gig? Novoselic confirmed that it was filmed. “I don’t know what Dave is going to do with it. But he’s a film guy. He’ll figure it out and make something good.”
And, finally, will Grohl and Novoselic ever perform these songs again? Novoselic: “I sure won’t say no. Maybe we can even do some new music one day.”
Grohl seems less sure about that: “We looked at that evening as a night that may never happen again. That’s what made it so powerful and beautiful and meaningful. And it may never happen again, so we made the most of it. And it was fucking great.”