Nirvana: The Final Scream
The show itself ran 23 songs, but later some remarked that it felt doomed. The power in the building went out just as Kurt began to sing the first line of “Come As You Are,” the sixth song of the set, and it was several minutes before the problem could be fixed. This kind of technical problem had happened frequently to Nirvana during their career, but never in a cold, drafty airplane hanger. Rather than wait for the crew to fix the problem, Kurt walked off to his dressing room. In some small cosmic twist, Dave Grohl’s first show with Nirvana in 1990, in a tiny Olympia club called the Northshore Surf Club, had also been plagued by power outages. That technical problem, in the nascent early days of Nirvana, had made the show more joyous, and the band played through three power outages. When the lights went out, they continued nonetheless, playing with flashlights shining on their face, as if to say that even electricity was not going to stop them.
Back in Munich, only once power was fully restored did Kurt return to the stage. Without a word or a smile, he began playing “Come As You Are” once again. The song sounded even more lifeless this time. In total, the band played 23 songs and ended with “Heart-Shaped Box,” the same song that had ended the previous eight shows. The show did not end with triumph, or any feeling of victory—it just ended.
As Kurt walked offstage he went directly to his agent Don Muller, who had flown in to make sure this show went off with problems. “That’s it. Cancel the next gig,” Kurt said without emotion as he walked to his dressing room. No explanation was given and none was needed. Kurt had been threatening to cancel the tour even before it began, and for the entire month everyone in the crew had imagined each show might be the last. Novoselic, who knew Kurt better than anyone, had sensed for months that Kurt’s interest in leading Nirvana had passed. “The band was over,” Novoselic later recalled. On March 1, 1994, the only thing that officially ended was this single leg of the In Utero European tour, but everyone knew that a larger story was coming to a close. Finally, in a drafty abandoned airplane hanger in Munich, in circumstances almost as dreary as their genesis, Nirvana ended.
Just a few days later in Rome, Kurt tried to kill himself by taking three-dozen Rohypnol, a powerful tranquilizer that is commonly known as the “date rape” drug. He’d left a note that referenced Shakespeare: “Like Hamlet, I have to choose between life and death. I’m choosing death.” He was rushed to a hospital and did not die, though several news reports announced that he had. Novoselic was back in Seattle and got a phone call from management saying Kurt was dead. CNN ran a news flash on Cobain’s death, as did a wire service news bulletin.
Kurt came out of a coma that afternoon and was back in Seattle two days later. He spent much of the next month on a heroin binge. His usage was so reckless that even his drug buddies began to shun him, worried that he might die in their presence. When one warned Kurt that he was using enough dope to kill himself accidentally, Kurt replied that he intended to shoot himself.
Several interventions were attempted, and finally on March 30, Kurt agreed to give rehab another chance—he had tried four times before. He checked into the Exodus Recovery Center in Marina Del Rey, California, but left after less than 48 hours. On the flight back to Seattle, he sat next to Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses. “I could tell he was bumming,” McKagan recalled. Duff offered Kurt a ride home, but Kurt split before they connected.
Over the next week Kurt went missing, and eventually a police report was filed and a private investigator was hired to locate him. He spent much of the time in seedy motels using drugs. Sometime during the first week of April, most likely on April 5, he snuck back into his mansion, which was now empty of family.
On April 8, 1994, an electrician servicing the house discovered a body in the greenhouse. It was Kurt. He had killed himself with a shotgun, leaving a long suicide note next to him. He ended the note by quoting Neil Young: “I don’t have the passion anymore and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy. Kurt Cobain.”
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