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Watch Nirvana's legendary Reading 1992 set in full in remastered 4K

Dave Grohl (left) and Kurt Cobain perform onstage at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992
(Image credit: MusicVideos4K/YouTube)

Nirvana gave plenty of legendary live performances during their all-too-brief career, but a couple will always stand taller than the rest. 

First and foremost would be their iconic 1993 MTV Unplugged in New York set, which – with the band's dramatic, Hollywood script-esque closing rendition of Lead Belly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night (opens in new tab) – stands to this day as likely the most famous Unplugged performance of all time.  

A close second though, is the band's crowning headline set at the 1992 Reading Festival. Prefaced (opens in new tab) by bad press, bad rehearsals and wild rumors of all kinds, the 25-song set – which took place 30 years ago today, on August 30, 1992 – would go on to be one of the trio's greatest. 

Thanks to the MusicVideos4K (opens in new tab) YouTube account, you can watch the whole set in glorious 4k resolution below.

Between NME reports of intra-band tension and an inflammatory Vanity Fair story that characterized (opens in new tab) Cobain and his wife, Courtney Love, as "the next Sid and Nancy,” gossip regarding strife in the Cobain camp was everywhere (opens in new tab) on the Reading grounds the weekend of their performance, and some festival-goers wondered if the band would even show up at all.

As a snide reference to the rumors, Cobain (wearing a hospital gown and long blond wig) asked (opens in new tab) Melody Maker journalist Jerry Thackray (known best by the pen name Everett True) to wheel him onto the stage in a wheelchair.

“I can’t… it’s too painful, this is too painful…," Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic said to the crowd as he towered over Cobain. "With the support of his friends and family, he's gonna make it."

Not quite ready to give up the shtick yet, Cobain opened the concert by shakily singing the first line from The Rose (the title track of a movie that, in what would become a sad twist of irony, revolves around a self-destructive rock star and her struggles with drug abuse in the midst of sudden fame) before collapsing to the ground.

Only after that did Cobain kick the band into a ferocious version of Breed, from the band's blockbuster breakthrough album of the previous year, Nevermind.

Kurt Cobain performs with Nirvana at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992

Kurt Cobain performs with Nirvana at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992 (Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

The band's set would go on to feature (opens in new tab) – bar closer Something in the Way – the entirety of Nevermind, four of the highlights from their 1989 debut album, Bleach, a smattering of covers, and a trio of songs that would go on to feature on the band's polarizing final album, In Utero.

Never one to take himself too seriously onstage, Cobain teased the crowd at one point by leading the band in a cover of Boston's More Than a Feeling (the opening riff of which bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Nirvana's defining mega-hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit).

To top it all off, as Novoselic toyed around with what was left of Dave Grohl's drum kit (while Grohl did his best to destroy the rest of it), Cobain – perhaps channeling another Stratocaster-wielding lefty prone to wowing festival crowds with powerful, destructive performances – closed the show with a ragged, horrifically out-of-tune Star-Spangled Banner.

"It turned out to be a wonderful show," Grohl told The Scotsman (opens in new tab) of the frenetic gig in 2009. "And it healed us for a little while."  

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.