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Beth McCarthy
Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl

Fresh off the release of what was soon becoming the seminal album of a generation, Nirvana took to the stage of Seattle's famed Paramount Theatre to an unwavering homecoming crowd while on the road in support of Nevermind. Launching the nineteen song set with a brilliant cover of the Vaselines "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam," the band cranks out their soon-to-be iconic songs "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lithium" and "Breed," while delivering earlier fan favorites "School," "Love Buzz" and "About A Girl." The Paramount concert is the only show ever shot of the band on 16mm film and has been transferred to an incredibly detailed 1080p high definition picture and re-mixed in 5.1 surround sound.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 72 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/27/2011

• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Nirvana: Live At The Paramount (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2007)

When Nirvana hit the stage on Halloween, 1991, they were A Band on the Verge. Their second album Nevermind had hit the shelves five weeks earlier but hadn’t become an immediate success. At that time, the album still hung outside of the US top 40, but it’d grow and grow.

And the rest – literally – was history. Nevermind got to number one in January, 1992, the album sold more than 10 million US copies, and the band become known as a legend who made an immense impact on rock music.

None of which could be sensed on October 31, 1991, of course. Even though the album was doing pretty well, there’s no way anyone could anticipate Nevermind would turn into a multi-million selling cultural phenomenon.

This means that Live at the Paramount offers an intriguing glimpse of the band. Nevermind had already performed better than Nirvana’s 1989 debut Bleach - which never even charted – but like I said, no one figured it’d become a genre-defining release. Nirvana was still just another little rock band, not the official Voice of a Generation.

Live presents the entire 19-song concert. Six of the songs come from Bleach: “School”, “Floyd the Barber”, “About a Girl”, “Love Buzz”, “Blew” and “Negative Creep”. Another eight from Nevermind arrive: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Drain You”, “Polly”, “Breed”, “Lithium”, “On a Plain”, “Territorial Pissings” and so-called “hidden track” “Endless, Nameless”.

As for the other five tracks, we locate a cover of the Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam”. “Been a Son”, “Aneurysm” and “Sliver” were all B-sides to Nevermind singles, and “Rape Me” ended up on the band’s next album, 1993’s In Utero.

To my dismay, I never saw Nirvana live. I liked “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when it hit – even bought the cassette single! – but didn’t delve deeper into their catalog until March 1994. I eventually wanted to see them on tour, but the tragic events of April 1994 meant that wouldn’t happen.

When I watch Paramount, I can’t say that I find myself even more upset that I was never able to see Nirvana live. That’s not a condemnation of the show, which is actually pretty good. It is an indication that nothing great comes from the performance.

Could Nirvana be a tremendous live band? Maybe – I’ll leave that to bigger fans to decide. Based on the evidence here, though, they come across as effective but not better than pretty good. The Paramount show offers a strong set that sounds solid; it just never leaps to a higher level. Perhaps that’s the burden of Nirvana: the band’s become such a legend that we can’t accept less than transcendence.

But I don’t want to leave an impression of dissatisfaction, because I actually like the show – I just don’t love it, and I can’t find much here that I think sounds better live than in the studio. The songs get a little more energy at times, but they don’t outdo their studio counterparts.

Which means the performances of Paramount fail the litmus test of Live Band Greatness. When I listen to the best live acts, they often create new renditions of songs that make the original studio cuts sound radically inferior. I can’t say that happens here; the live versions are good but never clearly superior to the originals.

Still, the show does sound fine, and I like the presentation. Shot professionally, Paramount comes across as a reasonably polished production – but not too polished, so it doesn’t betray the band’s indie vibe.

I’m glad it avoids modern pitfalls like hyperactive editing, and it manages to feel like a part of its time. It doesn’t go for the obnoxious visual choices that often mar the low-budget ethos of the period, though; it just feels like an honest depiction of the show without any notable gimmicks.

And that makes it a good way to observe history in the making. Live at the Paramount doesn’t provide a stellar product in any way; neither the video presentation nor the concert seem especially excellent. However, it’s a generally good piece that lets us glimpse Nirvana at a crucial point in their run.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Nirvana: Live at the Paramount appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD. Due to those dimensions, the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions – though a widescreen option exists that I’ll discuss later.

But the show was shot 1.37:1, so that’s the version on which I’ll focus. Given the show’s age and the band’s minimal public profile at the time, I expected a messy presentation, but instead, Paramount actually looked pretty good – at least within the confines of 16mm photography.

Sharpness seemed decent at worst and fairly nice at best. Nothing here ever came across as particularly well-defined, but few instances of real softness appeared, either. The show usually demonstrated acceptable clarity, and the image lacked shimmering or jagged edges. No substantial print flaws showed up, though some schmutz could appear around the sides. Those instances fell in the category of gate hairs and the like; these got more noticeable as the show progressed, but no problems like specks, scratches or marks marred the image.

No one would expect a bright ‘n’ shiny concert from Nirvana, and the show followed with fairly subdued tones. Virtually all the hues came from colored lights, and those looked fine. Reds were reasonably tight and other tones seemed acceptable – not that we got a lot, as the presentation remained rather monochromatic. Blacks were fairly deep, and shadows appeared decent; crowd shots tended to be dark, but that was inevitable. Though nothing about this image excelled, it was better than expected and worth a “B”.

As I mentioned, you can watch Paramount as 1.37:1 – which represents the whole film frame – or 16X9-enhanced 1.78:1. Because this stands as the show’s first release, one can debate what the “true” aspect ratio should be. Based on the evidence, though, 1.37:1 looks correct. The framing seems right and the 1.78:1 version crops too much.

As for audio, the DVD came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I checked out both options and couldn’t discern any noticeable differences between them.

The two mixes came across as good but not great. Stereo imaging tended to be limited. Much of the material remained oriented toward the center, with occasional spread to the sides but not a lot. Granted, this was a reflection of the band’s nature; with only three instruments and a vocalist, it wouldn’t make much sense to split the elements across the room.

Still, I thought the mixes could’ve opened up a bit more, as it lacked much breadth. Surround usage focused on reverb and crowd noise; those elements gave the tracks a decent sense of place.

Audio quality was more than acceptable. Vocals showed the right mix of clarity and echo inherent in the setting, and Cobain’s guitar displayed a nicely gritty, raunchy tone. Bass was fairly warm, and drums showed good punch. These tracks weren’t great, but they worked just fine.

Don’t expect much in terms of extras. We get a four-page booklet with a few photos and credits – and that’s it.

20 years after Nirvana redefined rock with Nevermind, we get to view them on stage right before they became Huge Huge Huge. Live at the Paramount doesn’t present anything transcendant, but it gives us a good show that comes across well on video. The DVD delivers pretty positive picture and audio but lacks supplements. It’s too bad we don’t get any bonuses, but I like the concert and think fans will enjoy it.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
0 3:
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