Re:Imagine, Nirvana – XOYO, London (Live Review)

I just saw Nirvana live.

Yes, it is exactly as absurd as it sounds (although it was courtesy of Re:Imagine, this isn’t the early nineties). Sold as a 21 piece choir and full band playing a selection of Nirvana classics, it was the kind of show I felt I couldn’t miss. Having grown up listening to Nirvana and knowing I would never see them live was a crushing blow, so this was my chance. With no clue what to expect, what they delivered was miles and decibels better than anything I could have imagined. Set in London’s XOYO, the downstairs main room was packed with a massive range of ages, all as unsure as I was about what we were about to experience.

Filling the stage the show started with ‘Come as You Are’ an undeniable classic. Sang as though they were being instructed by Kurt Cobain himself; the boys growled and the girls yelled over the backing band. Crashing drums teamed with scratchy, fussy and heavy guitar played note for note renditions of the tracks the band were most known for. ‘Lithium, ‘Where Did you Sleep Last Night’, ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Heart Shaped Box’ amongst other classics, the gang were all there. All the songs which, if you had Nirvana in your living room for an hour, you’d ask them to play.

When I saw they had choir, I was expecting a more classic interpretation of their best tracks, instead I was pleasantly shocked with how rowdy and accurate their performance was. Head-banging, jumping around and even kneeling on the floor to allow for a better view of the guitar soloist. It was mental but it was perfect.

Towards the middle of the show the choir dispersed and left us with just a guitarist and a singer who performed solemn versions of tracks like ‘Polly’. They then proceeded to switch it up further by interchanging the singer, guitarist and re-introducing the drummer. For a couple of songs it was like having the original trio, the un-holy trinity. On their return to stage, the choir introduced next song ‘Rape Me’ with, “This next one might be a bit inappropriate, but I don’t think any of you fucking care”. Definitely not the tame school-like choir I was anticipating.

“Most bands pretend they don’t have one more just to leave the stage and come back on, there’s too many of us so fuck it you will all know this one”; the final farewell was the ultimate classic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Introduced with a more traditional choir-like rendition of the chorus, no backing track just layers of voices, the song then exploded into it’s original form. The middle of the crowd became a blur of movement with one eager fan surfing the crowd in a way Nirvana would have encouraged. Pure Rock and Roll flowed throughout the room, the fact it was provided to us from the most unexpected source made it even more bad-ass.

Though I didn’t technically see Nirvana, what I did see felt like as close as it could get.

The Re:Imagine tour continues with Dr Dre and Outkast, follow their Facebook page for more details.