Flashback: Nirvana Play Gut-Wrenching Encore at Last Concert
Nirvana‘s Unplugged concert is often presented as the band’s final show, but they actually played another month of American dates after that November 18th, 1993 MTV taping and then headed over to Europe the following February. Cellist Melora Creager joined the band for this leg, replacing Lori Goldston who spent the previous year on the road with the group. They also decided to have touring guitarist Pat Smear take over back-up vocal duties from Dave Grohl.
Tinkering around with the stage show was not exactly Kurt Cobain‘s main focus at this point in time. Courtney Love didn’t fly out to Europe for the tour and the couple spent their two year wedding anniversary on separate continents amidst widespread reports they were going through a rough patch. Kurt looked increasingly pale and sickly as the tour went on, and his voice soon gave out on him. Doctors diagnosed him with bronchitis and a laryngitis and urged him to take a long break, but he ignored their advice and soldiered on.
Nirvana’s last concert ever took place on March 1st, 1994 in Munich, Germany, at Terminal Einz, an airplane hanger that fit 3,050 people. It was far from an ideal venue for a rock show and the acoustics were terrible, though Cobain didn’t realize this until the performance began since he skipped out on the soundcheck. The band opened with a sarcastic version of “My Best Friend’s Girl” by the Cars and had to start “Come as You Are” over again when the power went out. It was obvious to everyone in the crowd that Cobain was experiencing severe vocal issues.
Cameras were rolling for local television on the first few songs, but no video has surfaced from the rest of the night. Here’s audio of “Heart-Shaped Box,” the final song of the night and thus the final song Kurt Cobain ever played in public. It’s painful to hear him struggle to hit the high notes on the “hey wait” part of the chorus and later in the song he gives up and delivers it in a deep voice.
The song ends with a squelch of feedback and Kurt thanking the audience. It was clear that Cobain was in no shape to carry on and the few remaining dates on the tour were cancelled. He passed away the following month. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic wouldn’t play Nirvana songs in public together until the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.