Live at Nakano Sunplaza
February 19, 1992
Track 01 Negative Creep
Track 02 Been A Son
Track 03 On A Plain
Track 04 Blew
Track 05 Come As You Are
Track 06 Lithium
Track 07 Breed
Track 08 Sliver
Track 09 Drain You
Track 10 About A Girl
Track 11 School
Track 12 Aneurysm
Track 13 Love Buzz
Track 14 Polly
Track 15 Territorial Pissing
Track 16 Smells Like Teen Spirit
The year Punk broke, Nirvana came to Singapore knowing their debut mainstream album, Nevermind, was No. 1 in America. This was their first and only trip to the “Far East” and management had decided the only civilised nation to visit in South-east Asia was Singapore. The only thing an insular Kurt Cobain knew about this mysterious geographical theatre was recorded in a journal entry, “(I) found myself realising that I wouldn’t be able to get drugs when we got to Japan and Australia.” There was something else he found when he arrived in Singapore. He would need a government permit to play there.
No one in the Geffen office in Singapore had the presence of mind to ask Nirvana, before they arrived, whether they would like to play a promo concert here. Instead a contest was organised and the prize was a trip to Japan to watch Nirvana play. But when Cobain was accosted by fans at Changi International Airport and went through the routine of being chased to his tour bus, he wanted to play.
Unfortunately, Nirvana’s stay was far too short. An entertainment permit could not be rushed out in time for America’s No. 1 band to play here. There were rules to be followed. A list of the songs had to be submitted to the police and the lyrics provided for inspection. The venue had to be safe and properly policed to prevent rioting. It was 1992, the Dark Ages of Singapore pop culture. Fire Extinguisher is a bootleg of Nirvana’s final show in Tokyo at the Nakano Sunplaza on February 19, 1992, after leaving Singapore. It was also the last time Kurt Cobain would set foot in the Far East. For the hundreds of Japanese who sensed an event and bought tickets, they would be the envy of friends having seen Nirvana live.
The set itself was trimmed of the slower numbers like Something In The Way, Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam and the new Rape Me. Japanese audiences are polite and quiet. Kurt preferred to turn on the punks in the audience with a brief but stormy show. The band is on auto-pilot in the first half with uninspired versions of Been A Son, Come As You Are, Lithium and About A Girl. But just when you think, nothing’s going to happen, Kurt finally says something from the stage by way of introducing the next song, School: “…about two days ago, I got really sick. I got this really bad cold…,” he tells the audience. “Like a flu, like illness, whatever.” Did his Japanese fans understand?
“And ah the doctor,” he continues, “gave me this stuff to drink.” Cobain’s voice is as innocent as an angel’s when he tells them just what’s in the drink.
“I think it’s Chinese herbs and it has cow sperm in it and it’s got like lizard penis scrapings and ahh… I feel really sick but it just makes me feel real good to know that I’ve been drinking cow semen…” His voice trails off as he allows the last words to make its impact. “It makes you feel good.” The sarcasm is pointed at an unknown target – doctors, officialdom, record company execs, the man?
The version of School they play tonight is perhaps the most intense. “Won’t you believe it, it’s just my luck?” Cobain starts, referencing some unhappy recent event. Then comes the reply in the chorus of “no recess, no recess, no recess.” Cobain changes it coming in the second time. Now he sings with a sinister tone changing the lyrics to, “drinking cow sperm again… drinking cow sperm again…” He repeats it over and over and then slams the breaks, screaming “no recess, no recess” for the final time. Something has obviously touched an inner chord in him to release the energy. School has always been a song about stultifying conformity. Tonight it’s not only the lack of a recess break but the punishment of drinking “cow sperm again” that angers him.
For the rest of the show, the other members are like demons behind their singer. Aneurysm, Love Buzz, Polly, Territorial Pissing and the grand finale of Smells Like Teen Spirit unite the three into one single unit, pounding out pure punk – disreputable, antagonistic, iconoclastic and raging full on. But from all accounts when Kurt Cobain was in Japan, he was happy. He reportedly was quite taken by the outpouring of gifts from the Japanese and requested that they give him only Hello Kitty gifts. He was playful and bought himself new pajamas which he wore on stage. He also met his friends, the Shonen Knife, a trio of Japanese girls whom he had dinner with and later went to see them play.
Earlier, Kurt was reportedly unhappy in Australia where he had stomach pains, possibly a symptom of drug withdrawal. When he visited a hospital there, he was upset when he overheard a nurse describe him as a “junkie.” But Kurt Cobain adored Japan for its unique culture. It’s fitting that the only document from his Far East tour is this final concert in Japan. – Michael Cheah
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