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Twenty years ago: Nirvana plays last Chicago show at the Aragon Ballroom

By Keidra Chaney

This week marks a notable anniversary for Chicago fans of Nirvana. Twenty years ago the iconic grunge band played a two-day engagement on October 23 and 25 at the Aragon (then still known as the Aragon Ballroom). Both fans and critics reviewed the October 23 show as one of the best of the band’s 1993 tour. The show two days later was universally panned. The two concerts would be their last in Chicago; six months later, lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain was found dead at age 27 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The October 23 concert was historic not just for Chicago fans. Nirvana trivia buffs may recall that this show purportedly features the only known live performance of “You Know You’re Right,” the song that became the center of a bitter legal battle between Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, and his band mates. (The song eventually was released as a single in 2002.)

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana played their last show in Chicago Oct. 23, 1993. | Sun-Times File Photo

Logan Square graphic designer Pat Hilander attended the infamous October 25 show. Having heard rave reviews of the October 23 concert, he anticipated an epic show that night.

“It was a trainwreck from the very beginning,” he said. “Kurt was in a bad mood from the beginning. The mix was off and you couldn’t hear his vocals. He stopped the show a couple of times. Fans were upset and started to leave.”

The show’s notoriety was even the centerpiece of a 1994 Rolling Stone feature, published not long before Cobain’s death.

Incidentally, I passed up an opportunity to go to these shows. My sister and I had talked about buying tickets but instead decided to wait and see if Nirvana was going to headline Lollapalooza in 1994.

My sister opted to buy tickets for Janet Jackson, a decision she regrets to this day.

Hilander doesn’t regret a thing.

“Even though it was a horrible show, I’ll never forget it,” he says.