What’s Left? Re-examining the Live Record 1989 Part Two

This exercise all started as an attempt to try and figure out as many gaps in the Nirvana set-list record as possible. To recall the statistic, there are 128 unknown or partially known Nirvana set-lists, roughly 1,500-2,500 missing songs. 39 of those shows are from 1989, the highest overall total representing half of the shows that year. It’s certainly a complex year given the band’s history at that time contained so many breakpoints; finishing Bleach, acquiring and discarding a second guitarist, first U.S. tour, first European tour…

The most disappointing thing for me is the tight clustering of a lot of those absences; there’s no complete set-list for ten shows between December 28, 1988 and May 26, 1989 then a further four near blanks after that date until things flesh out from June 23, 1989. I’ve said before that I’m sure that those ten shows conceal the only live appearances of Big Long Now (I go into depth about my reasoning behind this in Dark Slivers) plus some of the final appearances of the early songs that later arrived on Incesticide. Take a look for yourselves, can we really make something of this mess?

Set-Lists_Late 1988-Early 1989_Gaps

Actually…There’s a good chance we can. For starters, note the coincidence of the Mr. Moustache, Paper Cuts, Mexican Seafood trio appearing at the two December dates and as late as the undated early show in February. I’d prefer more points of comparison but it’s a start. Similarly, it’s amusing to note that the School/Love Buzz/Floyd the Barber trio which formed a key feature of mid-to-late 1989 actually commenced right back in Oct-Dec 1988. Likewise Blew is already Nirvana’s favoured set closer, the impossibility is showing when Negative Creep became its crucial partner. What we can suggest is that on all the missing dates, Blew was the last song. Sifting, About a Girl and Spank Thru are also likely presences, as are the opening trio of School, Love Buzz and Floyd the Barber in some combination. That’s about all we can say.

In the comments section you’ll also note someone rightfully pointing out that Swap Meet is a likely appearance in this spell also. Complete agreement and a very relevant point to be made in this context. How often did it appear? Well, I have a suspicion, based on its non-appearance in the rest of 1989 that it was the equivalent of Lounge Act, or Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, one of those songs that never really caught on as a piece of the live set (self-evidently). Perhaps it did the appear-disappear trick, one of those songs that made a half dozen appearances and died.

Later in the year we’ll have more luck — let’s see next week in Part Three…


3 thoughts on “What’s Left? Re-examining the Live Record 1989 Part Two”

  1. livenirvana.com has Swap Meet’s first live appearance as 1990.
    there is no way that can be right.
    the song was written in 1988 and was when Chad was the drummer so whilst it might not have featured regularly for whatever reason it must have still featured during this era IMO

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