Tad, Nirvana: Astoria, London

“CHECK!… CHECK!…” This is one little improvisation that the fans freezing outside were missing as Sub Pop stalwarts Nirvana struggled valiantly to balance the sound to their satisfaction, mere minutes before the doors were about to be flung open.

“Give us everything you’ve got!” barks Nirvana’s beanpole bass player Chris Novoselic to the mixing desk. “Give us more tubas, more cellos!” A mini-LP of Nirvana’s soundcheck would not be a totally unlistenable artefact. Sure, there’s the usual tub thumping run-through of the drum kit, the seemingly endless bass boogie and the usual guitar noodling. Once that’s out of the way, however, Nirvana begin to flex their imaginations and turn an equipment run-through into a free-form composition, a taste of what to expect in a few minutes when Nirvana take the stage for real… “CHECK!”

The trio of bands who make up this evening’s bill (headlined by Mudhoney; reviewed last week), under the temporary banner of ‘Lame Fest UK ’89’, are proof positive that the Seattle scene, and Sub Pop in particular, are no sudden next-big-thing hype. A spirit of comradeship, of artistic equality is in the air at the Astoria this evening, a feeling of well-being is omnipresent and everybody’s adrenalin is channelled into enjoying themselves.

For Nirvana and Tad it’s the end of this particular road and so they choose to play party animal rather than prove their worth all over again.

“This is the last show on the tour so we can do what the f*** we want!” yells Novoselic to the masses, his excuse for the doodling interlude that both he and drummer Chad Channing have had to perform while guitarist Kurdt Kobain fixes a broken string that snapped during Nirvana’s opening number…

A bad omen? Kurdt returns, plugs in and smashes into ‘Love Buzz’, Nirvana’s neatest song in my book and one that still showers sparks. Kurdt Kobain and his guitar remain super-glued together throughout Nirvana’s non­stop high-voltage performance. Occasionally he’ll take a head dive onto the stage to land awkwardly like a busted rag doll at the feet of bass beatnik Novoselic, only to rise again unharmed and play on without his fingers ever leaving the fretboard.

Nirvana are Sub Pop’s answer to the Beatles, pop masters with a sense of hard rock and songs that penetrate the memory of their audience. ‘Blew’ (their latest 45) is a classy example of this, a hit for sure if the rest of the world wasn’t so stupid and half asleep.

Nirvana kicked off tonight’s set by busting a guitar string, as an encore they decide to bust up their guitars! Chris pulls his bass over his shoulder like a baseball bat and gives Kurdt’s flung guitar an almighty THWACK! The guitar explodes into matchwood and the audience leap onstage to pick up the pieces; Nirvana have fans already.

Tad Doyle (the man) is a lumbering hulk of a guitar player. A gone-to-pot Pavarotti, Tor Johnson in a fright wig, the meanest mouth that has flapped open onstage for quite some time. Tad (the band) are equally ugly, foul mouthed and hilarious, the complete opposite of the flashing young thrash of their Nirvana and Mudhoney counterparts. Tad are slower, heavier, grungier. The musical equivalent of a Bigfoot Monster Truck flattening the roofs of a dozen lined up Lincoln Continentals.

Tad Doyle smashes his knuckled fist into the strings of his guitar and bellows, “MOTHERF***ER!”, then falls flat on his back and crawls slowly back onto his knees in a parody of Kurdt Kobain’s more energetic stage antics.

Tad’s rock pokes out its big yellow tongue and sticks it firmly into the ear of the audience. They play for half the time that Nirvana took, yet they manage to leave as much of a lasting impression as Doyle ditches his guitar and begins to ape the head jerking front row by pretending to be a giant jelly on a plate. “YOU’RE FAT!” he sneers…Be thankful that Tad decided against stage diving!

© Edwin PounceyNew Musical Express, 16 December 1989

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