Nirvana’s Live at the Paramount presents a complete concert filmed in 16mm on October 31st, 1991. Nevermind had been out barely more than a month and the band had yet to become a worldwide phenomenon. The 19- song set offers a good portion of the then-new album, including “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Hits like “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are” were not part of the setlist, which may disappoint casual fans. But the set is a good mix of tracks from 1989’s Bleach, Nevermind, and B-sides. Kurt Cobain leaves most of the banter to bassist Krist Novoselic, much of which is goofily entertaining.
The concert is a bare bones rock show. The only “stage props” are a pair of dancers – one of each side of the stage. Thankfully, the camera people mostly ignored their gyrations and they don’t figure very prominently in the overall presentation. Highlights include the show opening “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam,” best known in its quieter Unplugged form and the show closing thrasher, “Endless, Nameless” (the “hidden” final track of Nevermind). It’s nice to hear drummer Dave Grohl’s backing vocals prominently featured, especially on the show’s quietest song “Polly.” Though it wouldn’t show up commercially for nearly two years on 1993’s In Utero, “Rape Me” is performed as part of the encore.
In 2009, Nirvana’s 1992 concert Live at Reading was released to DVD. That show, taped less than a year after Paramount (but after the band had achieved international stardom), featured a tighter, more concentrated dose of Nirvana. But Live at the Paramount makes an extraordinary companion piece, capturing one of the last times the band was not being treated as stadium rock gods. They’re playing a relatively small theater filled with fans that still regarded them as a local act. Plus, unlike the dated standard definition videography of Reading, the 16mm photography adds a timeless feel to look of the concert.
I have not seen the Blu-ray release of Live at the Paramount, though I have heard extreme disappointment expressed over what seems to be significant sync issues with the audio. While I can’t comment on that, I can say with certainty that there is no problem with the audio on the DVD. It should be noted that while the Super Deluxe edition of Nevermind includes Live at the Paramount on DVD, that disc includes four Nevermind music videos as a bonus. The stand-alone DVD has no bonus features. The concert can be viewed in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio or cropped in anamorphic widescreen.