|1. About A Girl|
|2. Come As You Are|
|3. Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam|
|4. The Man Who Sold The World|
|5. Pennyroyal Tea|
|8. On A Plain|
|9. Something In The Way|
|11. Oh Me|
|12. Lake Of Fire|
|13. All Apologies|
|14. Where Did You Sleep Last Night|
All of the most obvious choices from Nevermind are featured here, "Polly," and "Something in the Way" of course, but their acoustic rendering of "On a Plain" is both relevatory and surprising, since I would not have expected them to include this song, and what's more it actually works as an acoustic! The classic "Come As You Are" is given more subtlely and emotion here, and that flanged guitar solo sounds positively stunning on an acoustic (actually he was using a half-acoustic/half-electric hybrid). The band also delivers some of the most mature songs from In Utero, too. "Dumb" sounds both blissful and melancholy at the same time, "All Apologies" is one of the highlights here, and "Pennyroyal Tea" stands as one of Kurt's most emotionally naked moments (I actually like the version here better).
Like the Beatles before him, Kurt Cobain had the uncanny ability to take any cover song and make it his own. From Devo to Leadbelly, David Bowie to the Vaselines, Kurt made it sound like all of these songs were his own, and he does this beautifully here as well, especially on their rendition of Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World," and of course, Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." The latter has to be one of Nirvana's most chilling moments of all time, especially near the close of the song, where Kurt is giving it his all. Then, with an impassioned cry of "SHIVEEERRRRR!" he pauses for a couple of seconds before finishing the line. At this moment, I have to say the silence is deafening and is absolutely haunting in the purest sense of the word. It seems ironic that a band who was known for noisy live performances could rip walls out (and hearts) with two seconds of silence. This, if nothing else, stands as a testament to Nirvana's gifts.
As life affirming as this can be to listen to, sometimes it can also be quite sad knowing that this is ultimately the last word from Nirvana before Kurt's untimely death. But if this was the band's (and Kurt's) swan song, it is certainly the best finale that one can have, and I would certainly want something this beautiful to be my farewell, too. Even ten years later (God, has it been that long already?), Nirvana's Unplugged session remains as fresh as it was at the time, and stands as one of their very best live performances (as well as their most unique). Whether you are a casual fan or a diehard, this album is not to be missed and you are doing yourself a grave injustice if you skip out. This isn't just an Unplugged session, it is an experience.
Nirvana really showed their softer side during this performance, which must have been difficult for the band, (especially Kurt, who was very nervous), considering their past albums including the noisy but melodic 'In Utero' and the hardcore-punk/ grunge debut record 'Bleach'. Kurt Cobain's voice shines unplugged, even in the parts where he struggles with the vocals. Kurt does Pennyroyal Tea alone, which became a defining moment for his career, and such a step foe showing a new side. That new side was that Nirvana didn't just have loud punk rock music, but that they could strip it down and show off their talent. MTV Unplugged softened their sound, and the recording is entrancing.
I have head that booking Nirvana for this show was easy. What makes Nirvana unplugged so unique is the set up of their show was completely different than any other band before them. There are basically no Nirvana hit-songs off of this album other than Come as you are (off of 'Nevermind'). Also unlike any other band that has been on MTV Unplugged, Nirvana included a variety of covers, and some one would never associate with the band. They also played their whole show without breaks, or re-doing songs, hence the show was a beautiful fifty-six minutes.
The mix of music Nirvana chose for the night was extremely eclectic. As I mentioned above, they didn't just rip though their hits. The accordion (played by Krist Novaselic) added onto the Vaseline's cover of Jesus Don't Want me for a Sunbeam is awesome. Also for that song, Dave Grohl does not play drums, but instead, he joins in on guitar. (For more Vaseline's covers check out Nirvana's Insecticide. Nirvana was a big fan.) A lot of the songs Nirvana chose to cover were obscure bands that fans would never affiliate with Nirvana, which made the night even more special.
When the crowd heard that Nirvana had invited a "surprise guest" onto the show, they were expecting anyone but the Meat puppets. However, I think it is very appropriate that they did not make it some grunge-phenomenon; the band chose performers that they looked up to. It was very fitting that Nirvana stayed true to their punk-rock roots. It is far too cynical and unfair to wish that they chose anyone but the Meat Puppets, because it really enhances the record. The Meat Puppets play on all three of their songs while Kurt sings. Kurt loved that the vocals on these songs were out of his range and that he had to work at it. (Dave Grohl still on drums)
Choosing the eclectic mix Nirvana did, and playing it acoustically really broke new ground for them. Now Nirvana can appeal to lots of people. For me, after listening to this record, I am unable to express emotion because there is so much on the record. It's incredibly haunting. When someone hit the wrong note or wasn't on cue, it didn't matter, because those tiny flaws make the record real. It stays true to Nirvana, with a raw format and not trying to fix their mistakes. Given what happened five months later, the importance of this record is magnified. It took on a completely different meaning after Kurt died, and the listener can detect the pain and longing in his soul and voice. The whole band put so much effort into this performance, and it turned out magnificently. It is incredibly special, eerie, haunting, beautiful... and, well... an eclectic unplugged masterpiece that only Nirvana could pull off.
Worth your every bottom dollar.
Great selection of Nirvana songs and covers in an acoustic happy place.
(proceeds do not goto CL)