On the morning of October 31st, 1991, Kurt Cobain received some good news: His band Nirvana’s new album, Nevermind, had just turned gold. The record had only been out for a little more than a month, but it had already sold half a million copies. On tour in support of the record, Nirvana headed to Seattle, where they were scheduled to spend Halloween at the Paramount Theater — their first hometown show as a successful rock band.
With family and friends in the crowd and a film crew documenting the action, the band cracked jokes while playing a scorching 19-song set. “There’s more cameras in here than a 7-Eleven,” joked Krist Novoselic. “So two percent of you people are in costumes,” Dave Grohl said, observing the audience. “Personally I think it’s very lame, unless you’re all supposed to be punk rockers?”
After opening with “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” a song by the Vaselines that Nirvana would later make famous on MTV Unplugged, the band increased the intensity with “Aneurysm.” In the video above, they charge through a riff-heavy intro that sends Cobain to his knees in front of Grohl’s drums, before simmering down into a clean section driven by Novoselic’s bass. “Come on over and do the twist,” screeches Cobain. “Overdo it/Have a fit.”
The B side to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Aneurysm” was written about the first time a woman made Cobain so nervous, he threw up. He channeled his obsession with the human anatomy, bodily diseases and drug use into a fiery love song, featuring lyrics like “Love you so much it makes me sick” and “She keeps it pumpin’ straight to my heart.”
Ironically, the person who “Aneurysm” was written about was in the crowd: Cobain had invited musician Tobi Vail and her riot grrrl band Bikini Kill to open the show. The two briefly dated in early 1990 — her brand of deodorant, Teen Spirit, would inspire Nirvana’s most famous song.
Cobain died tragically 25 years ago this week. The concert film Live at the Paramount came out in 2011, but the show will be released on vinyl for the first time on April 12th.