The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 2

Nirvana + Smashing Pumpkins + Bullet LaVolta | Axis | September 23, 1991
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  March 8, 2012

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Nirvana live at Axis (YouTube)

Nirvana
SOMETIME AROUND 1991: Nirvana, live, that night, sold out

The next day, Nevermind (Geffen) would hit stores, so Nirvana were the underdogs on this bill celebrating WFNX’s birthday on Lansdowne Street. When they went on, the audience and the band ignited. The big-time production values of Nevermind were stripped away to reveal the raw, bleeding bones of Kurt Cobain’s songs. People were flying through the air. Every 15 or 20 seconds another body would be propelled over the crowd’s heads as if squeezed from a tube, be caught, and then slip back safely into the masses. There were too many people for anyone to fall straight to the floor. And it wasn’t only the audience. From the first chord Cobain was like a super ball — he seemed to ricochet off the floor into the air, off the audience back to the stage, off his amp to the front, and back again. His feet hardly touched the ground. Yet somehow every song came through with teeth-gritting perfection.

DOWLOAD: "Historic Nirvana concert at Axis in September 1991, the night before Nevermind was released"

Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan was also a commanding presence. The Pumpkins played so loud their set had a hurricane-like force. But there was a deep emotional resonance embedded in that wall of sound — an annex of what Jimi Hendrix called “the electric church.” The headliners were local outfit Bullet LaVolta, one of the greatest Boston bands of the ’80s. RCA released two of their albums that year, and they seemed poised to be, well, maybe what Nirvana became. Leader Yukki Gipe lived up to the first part of the band’s name at Axis, firing off the stage into the fans at the blisteringly hard, fast, loud set began. Even if LaVolta’s raw blend of hardcore and pop eventually couldn’t compete in the hookier world of alt-rock grunge, that night anything seemed possible.

READ MORE: "The night before Nevermind: Bullet LaVolta's drummer on opening for Nirvana in Boston on September 23, 1991"

40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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