Nirvana, the most acclaimed American rock group of the ‘90s, has withdrawn from the summer “Lollapalooza ’94" tour amid reports the group has broken up.
A spokesman for the band’s record label cited doctors’ concerns about leader Kurt Cobain’s health as the reason the group has withdrawn from negotiations to headline “Lollapalooza ’94.” The Geffen Records spokesman would not detail Cobain’s health problems. But the singer was hospitalized last month in Rome and was briefly in a coma after ingesting a combination of prescription tranquilizers and champagne.
Cobain, who was believed to be in Seattle, was not available for comment. His wife, singer Courtney Love of the band Hole, who was in Los Angeles on Monday, declined to shed light on the reports.
The group had been widely expected to top a “Lollapalooza” bill also reportedly set to include Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys and the Breeders. Nirvana has also canceled the remaining dates of a European tour that was interrupted when Cobain was in Rome.
Even before the recent Rome episode, some involved with “Lollapalooza” had privately expressed doubts that Cobain, who has a history of stomach problems and other ailments that have made extended touring difficult for him, would be able to make it through the grueling tour without illness. The breakup is said to revolve around tensions between Cobain and bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl concerning Cobain’s health following the Rome incident.
Nirvana spokeswoman Janet Billig and others close to Nirvana caution that the breakup should not be considered permanent. The group has disbanded temporarily several times in the past as part of a sometimes stormy history involving the allegations and admittance of drug use by Cobain.
“They’ve been on the verge of breaking up forever and this doesn’t sound more serious than the other 43,000 times,” said one source close to the band, “though this could be a signal from the other members of the band that Kurt needs to focus on taking better care of himself.”
Cobain admitted to using heroin and other drugs in interviews last year after he and Love had been dogged by rumors about it.
Some concert promoters consider Nirvana’s withdrawal a blow to “Lollapalooza,” which many feel had a down year last summer. Where the 1992 version of the tour sported several acts, particularly Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were rising rapidly in both sales and youth-culture significance, last year’s roster--including Alice in Chains, Primus and Dinosaur Jr.--lacked that sense of momentum. The presence of Nirvana this year was counted on to regain that “must-see” element.
“With Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys it was a great package,” said Amir Daiza, president of Detroit-based Ritual Promotions. “With Nirvana dropping out it doesn’t seem strong, more like last year when there was no real headliner.”
Other promoters agree that Nirvana’s absence is a big loss for the tour, but feel the package is still strong, and that the “Lollapalooza” concept itself is a big attraction. Last year a show near Chicago sold 30,000 tickets before a lineup was even announced.
“It’s still a great show,” said Arny Granat, president of Jam Productions, which promoted last year’s concerts at the World Music Theatre outside of Chicago. “It’s a great event no matter what. You replace Nirvana and go ahead. It will all work out fine.”
The Times’ pop music critic, Robert Hilburn, contributed to this report.