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Nirvana – Roma (2/27/94)

August 24, 2006

I just felt like I needed to do some Nirvana rambling and because my friends are probably sick of that by now, I guess I might as well do it here.

How much Nirvana was officially released? Well, not that much. Most of what material hardcore Nirvana fans will have is B-sides and live stuff. Of course the vital stuff is the official recordings, but it’s hard to be a fan of a band that had three studio albums, one b-sides album, and two live albums. You kind of have to branch a little, and box sets and bootlegs are probably the best way to do this. I have no doubt that more official recordings of Nirvana shows will be released in the future, but hardcore Nirvana fans make a point to look for live Nirvana, sometimes live Nirvana that is not easy to get. There is something to be said about the live albums that were released. From The Muddy Banks of The Wishkah is a pretty good collection of some of the bands better live stuff. But theres a few clunkers I suppose. The live Spank Thru makes it well worth it and theres some other fantastic performances on there too. Unplugged is easily my favorite album ever. It’s pretty much flawless, and every song is utterly fantastic. But beyond that, you have to start roaming in bootleg country for any live material, and it’s hard to know where to start when there are so many different choices to make.

All things considered, Roma is probably the best place to start just because it’s so popular. While Unplugged is the best Nirvana you can get, it’s not like what Nirvana normally did. What is really important to have is some hard hitting live stuff, and this is a winner in that respect. And about 75% of fans will tell you that this is the best bootleg there is anyway. The reason being it’s utterly fantastic sound quality. It really sounds like it was professionally recorded. It wouldn’t surprise me if this concert was ever officially released, because it’s just that good.

The only bootleg that you can find that will match this in quality is Out of the Blue, and that’s a piece that only really big fans will enjoy because it mostly only contains the older material that the band did. With that said, Roma is filled with a huge set containing all of Nirvana’s hits and more popular songs. The most treatment is obviously given to the In Utero material, because the album came out not too many months before this. So you get some beautiful renditions of Heart Shaped Box, Scentless Apprentice (possibly my favorite Nirvana song), Dumb, and Rape Me. And of course theres some of the Nevermind era material like Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Lithium, which while is not anything extremely exciting to hear live, is essential for the perfect Nirvana setlist. And of course there are a ton of great songs played here that weren’t singles and such, the rendition of Very Ape is admirable and a good job was done on Sliver.

I guess one of my few complaints about this disk is that not enough rarities were played. But then again, what is a rarity in the Nirvana respect? The only songs played here that I would really consider a rarity (and then again that’s still a stretch) are the fantastic opening Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, the monster of a live song School, and maybe Serve The Servants. Oh, and Lounge Act. But once again, I wouldn’t even really consider these songs rare for concerts but more uncommon than the others. All I’m saying is I would easily trade Drain You or Breed or Pennyroyal Tea for Paper Cuts, Aneurysm, or Aero Zeppelin. But beyond my nitpicking this is pretty much the quintissential Nirvana set list because it’s just so goddam huge, spanning twenty two songs.

Some tidbits include Krists various funny comments between songs. This is one of Nirvana’s last shows, and god knows Kurt was not in very good condition at this time. So he doesn’t do a lot of the talking. Krist enlightens the audience with words of wisdom. But with all this said, the band is in perfect condition. Very few, if any, mistakes are made at all. Dave is hitting away as hard as ever, and Kurt and Krist are in good playing condition too. Kurts voice is still great and he never misses a note. The only mildly complaint worth thing I could say is that Kurt didn’t talk to the audience enough, but he almost never did during shows. So who am I to complain? Pat Smear produces some good meat for the bands sound with his backup guitar. You can even see him on the cover between Krist and Dave. As far as previous members of Nirvana go, you will probably hear me give about as much respect to Pat Smear as Chad Channing. While Pat was a backup guitarist and we wasn’t as talented or vital as Kurt, Krist, or Dave, he was still a cool and reportedly very nice person who played some great guitar. As far as I’m concerned, they should have just included him as a full time member of the band. Now I know I’m getting extremely involved when I say this, but of all of the pictures I have seen of the band, the cover of Roma is one of my favorites. Not just because of how awesome the rest of the band looks, but because they actually look like a full fledged band with the four of them, a group of warriors now helped by numbers. Another little prize is the ending track, Demolition, which is essentially the band destroying their gear after the show. While it’s not that involving of a listen, really hardcore Nirvana fans will enjoy this track simply because of it’s capturing the moment.

So despite the fact that any fan could argue against the setlist as much as any other bootleg, this is the best you can get. It’s not quite as good as Unplugged or any other official albums, but it’s the essential piece on the opposite side of the spectrum of Unplugged. Considering Kurt Cobain would commit suicide around two months later, the enthusiasm in the playing and singing doesn’t let that uneasiness show. It’s an utterly fantastic live album and even casual Nirvana fans should pick it up somehow.

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