Nirvana Live at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium

Before the Morocco Shrine Auditorium was demolished on February 1, 2023, it provided Jacksonville with a venue for events, conventions and concerts. Local historian Andrew R. Nicholas tells the story of when Nirvana played heir last Jacksonville show there on November 26, 1993.

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium in Jacksonville. Photo by Don Lawver; taken from Live Nirvana.

The Florida Times-Union.

In 1993, Nirvana released their third album, In Utero, featuring such songs as “Heart-Shaped Box,” “All Apologies” and “Pennyroyal Tea.” The In Utero North American Tour began on October 18, 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona, gradually making its way to the East Coast. On November 18 Nirvana performed their famous acoustic set, MTV Unplugged in New York, which was released as an album the following year. After playing MTV Unplugged, the band traveled south to play their next show at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium in Jacksonville.

MTV Unplugged In New York was Nirvana’s previous show before they played in Jacksonville.

This was not the first time Nirvana performed in Jacksonville. Nirvana played at the Einstein A-Go-Go in Jacksonville Beach on May 5, 1990, with a lineup including Kurt Cobain on guitar and vocals, Krist Novoselic on bass and drummer Chad Channing. When the band performed at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium in 1993 they had their best known lineup: Cobain, Novoselic and infamous drummer and later founder of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl. Unfortunately, this was Nirvana’s last performance in Jacksonville.

Nirvana was the first big band to play at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium. Lori Goldston, the touring cellist with Nirvana, said that it was “an unusual venue”. Built in 1985 to serve as a meeting hall and events venue, the Morocco Shrine Auditorium seemed like an unlikely place for such a large act like Nirvana. The Shriners were also there, which added to the oddness of the show, with some unknown individuals even going through some of their regalia backstage.

Ticket from Nirvana’s show at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Poster from the show. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Come was the opening band of the night at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium starting at 8:00 PM. The second band to go on before Nirvana was The Breeders going on at 8:45 PM. The audience gradually became agitated toward The Breeders with one unknown individual throwing a shoe at Kelley Deal, the lead guitarist. “We’re not target practice,” exclaimed Kim Deal, the lead singer of The Breeders. Kim was greeted with a shoe as well, forcing The Breeders off stage and ending their set prematurely. The audience was not in the mood for The Breeders nor did they seem to care much for them. One individual, who will remain anonymous, had said shoes were thrown at The Breeders because they were horrible. The audience did not care for The Breeders and they wanted them to know it. Kurt Cobain came out on stage a minute later to tell the audience to “keep your shoes on”. Cobain disagreed with the audience’s reaction to The Breeders as he had previously said in a 1992 interview, “the main reason I like them is for their songs, for the way they structure them, which is totally unique, very atmospheric.”

The raucous audience of 3,300 people were ready to explode by the time Nirvana took the stage at 9:45 PM. The opening song was Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, the tenth track off In Utero. Moshing was the common theme closer to the stage as Cobain used his signature distortion and screams like adding fuel to a fire. The audience was electrified as Nirvana performed the majority of their hits, such as “Come As You Are,” “Lithium” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The final song of the night was “Blew” off their first album Bleach. Cobain ended the night by smashing his Fender Stratocaster guitar with the help of a fan. That lucky fan was given the smashed guitar with the autographs of all three Nirvana members. Nirvana gave the fans what they wanted, a chaotic, distortion-filled room with a mosh pit unseen at a place like the Morocco Shrine Auditorium. The following day they played at the AT&T Amphitheater in Miami, but hopefully Jacksonville and the Morocco Shrine Auditorium had an impact on Nirvana and the opening acts.

Nirvana singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Kurt Cobain. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Dave Grohl on drums. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

25 years later Dave Grohl returned to Jacksonville in 2018 with his band Foo Fighters at the 2018 Welcome to Rockville festival at Metropolitan Park. Photo by Niwy Ková?ová.

The Set List

  • Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
  • Drain You
  • Breed
  • Serve The Servants
  • About A Girl
  • Heart-Shaped Box
  • Sliver
  • Dumb
  • In Bloom
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Pennyroyal Tea
  • School
  • Polly (acoustic)
  • Milk It
  • Rape Me
  • Territorial Pissings
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • All Apologies
  • Something In The Way
  • On A Plain
  • Scentless Apprentice
  • Blew

Kurt Cobain played two different guitars at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium. He played this Fender Stratocaster guitar near the end of the set. Cobain smashed this guitar after the show and it was then signed by all members of Nirvana and given to a lucky fan. The guitar is now part of the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

The previous time that Kurt played his orange Fender Stratocaster was at Reading in the United Kingdom. This is the cover of the Live At Reading album released in 2009 featuring the orange Fender Stratocaster.

Cobain played this custom-made Fender Mustang “Sky-Stang I” for the majority of the Jacksonville show. The Fender Mustang was his main guitar for the In Utero tour. Cobain had two other “Sky Stang” guitars he would alternatively use. Today, the guitar is owned by a private collector. Photo by Don Lawver. Taken from Live Nirvana.

Article by Andrew R. Nicholas. Follow Andrew on Twitter at a_r_nicholas.

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