Nirvana, ‘Live In Japan’ (Empress Valley Supreme Disk EV 1562-1565)

There are possibly as many Nirvana boots out and around in collectors circles now as there are for the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, et al. The website listed a substantial amount on their site and, as they stopped updating the ‘bootography’ page on their site in 2012 apparently, then no doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands of titles that haven’t actually been catalogued since.

If you were to ask, my fave title would possibly be “Live Tits” if only for the ludicrous nature of naming the release after the rock n’ roll image on the front. I’d certainly recommend the site’s measuring of the live dates that were played as seemingly each and every live date that the band played is recorded for legacy complete with the details of the guitar tech down to the time of the soundcheck. 

There appears to have been a carelessness on the side of Kurt’s estate or even the band and their crew that composing tapes, demo tapes, etc have all leaked over the years – Alongside radio appearances, TV shows, live recordings (Of both audience and soundboard quality) there has been a market made for the three studio albums that the band released through their career alongside the live shows that were released pre and posthumously while the bootleg market marched on pretty much unhindered – Aiding and abetting the career spanning official boxed sets that were licensed by Courtney Love afterwards. 

Their first four shows in Japan on the ‘Pacific Rim’ tour, promoting everyone’s favourite Nirvana album, “Nevermind” have been picked up by Empress Valley on the back of one new soundboard from Kawasaki on the 17th of February, 1992. The label have also picked up the best of the audience tapes that exist for the other three shows. We’ll detail these, disk by disk, below; The sets were an introductory mix of songs from Bleach, the Hormoaning EP and, of course, the breakthrough album, Nevermind, their sound befitting the exchange from recorded live to really live. 

The band apparently enjoyed the attention that received from the Far Eastern fans – Kurt requesting that, if presents were insisted upon, then he’d like to receive “Hello Kitty” paraphernalia. He embraced the shopping in Japan by purchasing new nightwear and wearing it to play on stage with. 

Disk 1; Kokusai koryu centre, Osaka, JP. February 14th, 1992. (67:14)

 Intro / Negative Creep / Been A Son / On A Plain / Something In The Way / Blew / Come As You Are / Lithium / Breed / Territorial Pissings / Sliver / About A Girl / School / Aneurysm / Love Buzz / Polly / Lounge Act / Drain You / Smells Like Teen Spirit

An excellent audience recording that is so very close to appearing to be a soundboard as is possible was it not for the intermittent bursts of audience noise – This Japanese audience isn’t holding back in their favour – is tremendous. The tape starts immediately, pretty much as soon as the lights dim to herald the bands arrival and they quickly pick up the reins with the tour long opener, ’Negative Creep’. There’s very little space for rest until ‘Blew’, not that you could call this a ballad, of course, but the slowness at least allows the audience a minute or so of respite before the thunderous drags thrash around again.  

Following the track, Kris announces that alternative female ensemble Shonen Knife are playing a free gig at a nearby club and suggests that everyone goes. Shonen Knife were 11 years in to their own career at the time so it’s likely everyone had heard their act already, Nirvana, proud of their friendship were obviously stoked to introduce them. 

‘Lithium’ is played in it’s regular vari-speed, wobbly style – faster than the album version, just as crunchy. ’Territorial Pissings’ is preceded by an alternate version of the albums spoken word introduction, the vocal lead appears to be knocked out halfway through the track before we hear the plug get slotted back in so the vocals can carry on – were it not for the tell-tale feedback, you wouldn’t notice. 

Shortly before ’Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Kurt makes an allusion to the death of the dinosaurs before throwing out the riff that launched a million grunge albums. The set ends with some noisily shattering storm-und-drang that pretty much doubles the length of the song itself before the band move on. 

Disk 2; Club Quattro, Nagoya, Japan. February 16th, 1992. (67:00) Negative Creep / Been A Son / On A Plain / Blew / Come As You Are / Lithium / Breed / Sliver / Drain You / About A Girl / School / Aneurysm / Love Buzz / Polly / Lounge Act / Dumb / Territorial Pissings / Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nagoya’s recording isn’t quite the recording that Osaka’s is. More distant from the stage, a little boxier sounding, it does still have an FM style quality, if this wasn’t recorded off the radio, I’d be very surprised.

The audience are much more lively than the previous nights and the crowd bleed through the music much more than the first recording. It’s far from off putting though and adds to the excitement of the appearance of the band. They themselves are more muted however, there’s very little interaction baring a handful of thanks and a couple of song introductions.

A brief introduction to Kris by Dave prior to ‘Breed’, an illegible bit of speech prior to ‘Drain You’, Dave makes a quip about not selling crack in Japan before ‘Aneurysm’. The set is also notable as Dave drums the first few bars of U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ in the intro to ‘Territorial Pissings’. 

The tape starts as quickly as the first night, the band riff on some feedback prior to their set this time however. There is a change to the set list as both ‘Sliver’ and ‘Dumb’ replace ‘Something In The Way’, ‘Territorial Pissings’ shifts it’s way to the back of the set, nestling against ‘Smells Like ..’ 

Tonight, the band end the set with a buzz of feedback at the end of ‘Smells Like ..’, stretching out the duration of the song to 8-plus minutes, wherein the tape fades out soon after. 

Disk 3; Club Citta, Kawasaki, Japan. February 17th, 1992. (59:31) Negative Creep / Been A Son / On A Plain / Something In The Way / Blew / Come As You Are / Lithium / Breed / Sliver / Drain You / About A Girl / School / Aneurysm / Love Buzz / Polly / Lounge Act / Territorial Pissings / Smells Like Teen Spirit

The big one! This tape has only recently been liberated and has not yet worked it’s way around collectors circles. A solid wide stereo sound with a great level of audience noise and the power to show just how loud it was in the club. There’s one small flaw in the recording as it starts part way through, ‘Negative Creep’. No doubt some enterprising desktop bootlegger will eventually fold the audience recording on to the unrecorded soundboard but I would argue that it’s maybe not required. 

A furious set, the band evidently having a better night than the evening before, plow through their repertoire – The set changes tonight, kicking out ‘Dumb’ and replacing it with ‘Something In The Way’ and also the non-album track, ‘Sliver’. The band are also marginally more chatty, thank yous are abundant, Kurt trots out a public service announcement prior to ‘Come As You Are’, the announcement of a beer prior to ‘Polly’,

There’s also a speed-laced. banter laden band introduction prior to ‘Territorial Pissings’ and an abstract announcement towards the end of the final track. 

The feedback blocking end to ‘Smells Like ..’ is featured but is faded out, who knows how long before it actually ended. The tape then ends with a sound like a plastic slipper cracking against a concrete floor – Weird! 

Disk 4; Nakana Sunplaza, Tokyo, Japan. February 19th, 1992 (61:17) Negative Creep / Been A Son / On A Plain / Blew / Come As You Are/ Lithium / Breed / Sliver / Drain You / About A Girl / School / Aneurysm / Love Buzz / Polly / Territorial Pissings / Smells Like Teen Spirit

The final nights soundboard tape starts oddly – There’s the sound of transistor radio interference prior to the bands entrance – They then wordlessly enter to lance through, ‘Negative Creep’. It’s another incredible recording – though the crowd are a little less excitable at times. The band are also a lot quieter than two nights previous – In fact it takes then until just before ‘School’ before they pipe up.

It’s Dave who takes the mantle by telling the crowd that he’s been taking a medicine for an ailment that’s been suffering through recently, that medicine’s ingredient of note seems to be cow’s semen. Dave still doesn’t feel well but his interest has been piqued by the rather unconventional mixture – a theme that Kurt continues by using the fact as a refrain for the coda. 

There’s a lot of chatter following ‘Territorial Pissings’, Dave wants to offer a heartfelt ‘end of tour’ speech, though this is nothing but a bit of goofing with a squeaky toy before he shouts a line of Queen’s, “We Will Rock You”,

He then chants ‘kill the security guards’ through a bull phone afterwards, the feedback decends again as a Shonen Knife track begins to play over the PA. 

This is an excellent set for the Nirvana fan – Never before has the Japanese tour been brought together and so beautifully too – A thick glossy duo fold, thick card sleeve, draped with an obi-strip. A sleeve sized slip where there’s room for your personalised limited edition number, and as Empress Valley made a mistake while typesetting the rear of the sleeve (The dates shown for each venue are the same), a small tour flyer that denotes the four Japanese tour dates on the Pacific Rim tour. The disks themselves are screen-printed with outtakes for the ‘Nevermind’ cover photoshoot featuring the band.

A brilliant, brilliant release – I slowly came to the conclusion that so much of the new music I still listen to now owes a debt to the sound that the band created. If you’re also interested in hearing the band at arguably the peak of their powers – this set is awesome.

Share This Post

Like This Post


Related Posts


Average User Rating:
Showing 2 reviews
  1. Excellent Review (as usual).
    • Pros
    • All
    • Cons
    • None

    This was an excellent review, Stuart. Thank you!

  2. Fab review
    • Pros
    • All good
    • Cons
    • Nowt

    Great review Stuart. Another set that sounds essential.


Leave a Reply

Thanks for submitting your comment!

Recent Comments

Editor Picks