What’s Left? Re-examining the Live Record 1992 Part 2

As a starting point for our work today, remember that in 1992 all but seven shows are completely known of the 25 that took place. There’s a clear break in the year also that is of note; in January-February the band played an average of 17 songs a night across the fourteen known set-lists (a maximum, hit on two occasions, of 19). In the 14 known set-lists (of 16 shows played) covering June-October, the average jumped to twenty with Reading in particular standing out with 26 songs performed. So, how many songs is it likely we are missing?

The five dates incomplete or missing in January-February benefit from the relative consistency of that period; the shortest show as 14 songs, the longest 19, the norm 16 — we’re therefore likely to be missing a range of between 70 and 95 songs with 23 already confirmed. We’re in a different situation with the two shows missing later in the year. No set-list from June onward featured less than 17 songs (and that only on one occasion); the norm was over 21. But both missing shows are benefit appearances; Nirvana had a habit of pulling something different for ‘special events’ and both of these qualify. Ordinarily I could forecast between 34 and 42 songs, not in these two cases even with 19 of the songs played already known.

What’s noticeable is the absence of the usual ‘couplets’; in other years the presence of one song seemed to invariably lead to the playing of another. It’s gratifying to see the Negative Creep/Blew pattern persisting but it’s an increasingly twisted threesome with Been a Son. Those three songs may only appear alongside each other only five times, but there are only six shows where all three don’t appear. Even more noticeably, on the 26 of 28 fully known set-lists on which those songs (whether two or three of them) appear, there’s never more than two songs separating them. That’s impressive consistency across a very fragmented year.

Whats Left_1992_NC-BaS-Blew

There are no more consistent units to which I can turn to predict order and position beyond the opening songs as described yesterday plus the NC/B a Son/Blew trilogy. But that doesn’t mean we are scuppered with a mere 20 songs added to the record. Instead, let’s look at how consistently songs were performed across that era, how much flexibility was there? The table below indicates how consistently certain songs were performed. Firstly, remember there are 14 wholly known set-lists:

Whats Left_1992_Flexibility

So, in total, there are nine songs that are played at every single known show plus Breed which is played in 13 known and one partial set-list. How does that map to the unknown set-lists?

Note that in the figure below, from Feb 9, the line up of songs is almost identical for a full 14/15 songs with the exceptions being simply the addition or subtraction of Something in the Way and, on one occasion, the flipping round of Territorial Pissings and Drain You; that makes it very easy to confirm the missing date on Feb 21.

Whats Left_1992_Ten Songs

This is where the ‘flips’ between set-lists in January and February begin to cause doubts for those few remaining songs. After Feb 9, the set-list becomes extremely structured so our only areas for doubt are whether to add Lounge Act AND Territorial, or just one or the other, and whether one more additional song was squeezed in possibly with an Endless Nameless finale. Prior to that date, a number of songs — Negative Creep, Been a Son, Blew, On A Plain — were more usually part of the second half of a show rather than part of the start. Yet those songs were not consistently present, the set flexed. Similarly, I’m sure we’re looking at a number of performances of Love Buzz and Territorial Pissings, but how many is a matter of doubt. Beyond that it’s hard to see; maybe Something in the Way, a chance of Stain — then into the realms of unpredictability, one or two rarities at most. In total, what we’re looking at, at most, is:

Whats Left_1992_Total

From those five dates, we knew 23 songs, were missing a further 47 to 72, and can work out a potential 66 of which 39 are certainties, the others are a curious bunch; either Jan 27 saw Nirvana switching over from Floyd the Barber to Sliver (I think this is likely) or Sliver will have to appear later in the set; Feb 23 will definitely feature Blew but it may also include Something in the Way. Next, all the early dates will feature some derivation of the Been a Son/Negative Creep/Blew/On a Plain mix, with the choice on a number of dates to include Love Buzz/Territorial Pissings and maybe even Endless Nameless at the end.

Whats Left_1992_The Doubts

Ending on a high…October 3 and 4 are the other missing dates in 1992; what the Hell to do with set-lists where the known songs blend in Mexican Seafood, Beeswax, D7, Talk to Me, Curmudgeon, plus early showings of Dumb and Pennyroyal Tea… Basically, I’m going to hope the rest of each show turns up because what I think we’re looking at are the two most desirable incomplete performances left in the Nirvana live record.


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