Remembering Kurt Cobain: Nirvana Performs At Rio’s Hollywood Rock Festival In 1993

By Nate Todd Apr 5, 2021 10:34 am PDT

Kurt Cobain sadly died on this date, April 5, in 1994. The legendary singer-songwriter, guitarist and Nirvana frontman was found dead three days later at his home in Seattle from what police deemed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 27 years old.

Cobain had been struggling with heroin addiction but also depression. Kurt’s troubles, in part, stemmed from the extreme pressures that fame seems to foist upon those who find it. It is also well-documented that Cobain was upset about the commercialization of Nirvana’s music. But although he may have tried to mask his troubles with drugs and alcohol, he still remained defiant publically and always sought to subvert the idea of being a “rock star.”

A little over a year before his death, Nirvana performed at the Hollywood Rock Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was reported that Cobain was experiencing withdrawal symptoms and had drunk vodka and taken Valium. Despite this, the show is amazing. While he’s not in the best shape, Kurt — dressed in pajamas for most of the show — does a number of Kurt things like staging a fake cigarette ad for Brazil’s Hollywood cigarettes. “When I’m in Diarrhea de Janeiro, I like to have the refreshing leaves of a palm tree. I can’t stop smoking man, I gotta smoke all the time. I’m a rock n roll star. And rock n’ roll stars put their cigarettes right…here,” he said before placing his lit cigarette between the strings of his guitar.

But rewinding a bit, the set kicks off in earnest with “School” from Nirvana’s 1989 debut album, Bleach. Drummer Dave Grohl shines from the beginning and he plays with a controlled fury. Bassist Krist Novoselic, with his ax swung characteristically low, bounces along to Dave’s beat. Although there is a touch of weariness in his voice, Kurt handles singing and the guitar lines well. In short, the show gets off to a rocking start.

The first half of the set also contains songs from Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind including “Drain You,” “Breed,” “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are.” A couple of covers follow in Shocking Blues’ “Love Buzz” and a jam on The Viletones’ “Possibilities.” It is after a killer “Lithium” that the cigarette bit takes place and Cobain continues it on “Polly” singing “Hollywood smoke is the smoke.” More subversive shenanigans take place when Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea emerges for perhaps Nirvana’s most commercialized song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” playing the trumpet. The rest of the set also includes a performance of the yet-to-be-released classic “Heart-Shaped Box.” The set comes to a close with a 10-minute “Scentless Apprentice” which sees Kurt spitting on the cameras.

Grohl — wearing a bra — and Novoselic retake the stage for the encore without Kurt at first and jam on Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” a good call as the intro is just drums and bass. Kurt — also dressed in lingerie — comes back out for rollicking performances of “Dive,” “Lounge Act,” “Aneurysm” and “Territorial Pissings” to close out the encore.

To remember Kurt Cobain, watch Nirvana’s entire appearance at Rio’s Hollywood Rock Festival In 1993 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:


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MoreNirvana (See 6 videos)
Nirvana (See 160 videos)

Setlist

Nirvana at Praça da Apoteose

  • Habanera: L'amour est un oiseau rebelle  
  • School
  • Drain You
  • Breed
  • Sliver
  • In Bloom
  • Come as You Are
  • Love Buzz  
  • Possibilities  
  • Lithium
  • Polly
  • About a Girl
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit  
  • On a Plain
  • Negative Creep
  • Been a Son
  • Blew
  • Heart-Shaped Box
  • Scentless Apprentice
Encore
  • Sweet Emotion  
  • Dive
  • Lounge Act
  • Aneurysm
  • Territorial Pissings
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