Top critical review
Back to Earth, Devoted Fans
on July 8, 2001
First, let me say that I own everything I could get my hands on from Nirvana and that, as a Washingtonian, I also feel a degree of civic pride to have had Nirvana originate in my own figurative backyard. Add to this that anyone listening to more recent rock cannot fail to identify the influence of grunge which Nirvana (though not the originators of the sound) were certainly the most popular advocates of.
This is all well and fine. It is also the case that this acoustic live album is almost entirely worthless. The reviewers below are all raving and glowing and full of praise for this thing, but this is wholly unwarranted. I think the raves are a combination of the sense of tragedy about Cobain's suicide (as Nirvana's last recording, naturally it seems like a swan song), perhaps memories from having watched the performance on MTV, and just plain, good old-fashioned projection (imagining depth and detail where there is none).
If you read the other reviews, and then listen to the album, you may well find yourself expecting grit-toothed singing and intensity throughout. What you will hear instead, 95% of the time, is Cobain sounding very tired. If, additionally, you know the album, you will know that he gives a heart-stopping performance of a Leadbelly song to end the concert. Was he saving himself til the end or, what is more likely the truth, did he just not care enough in the earlier pieces. Honestly, his predominant lack of effort reads like boredom to me; he shows more life in between songs with his comments. Is this tragic? Maybe. Does it make my appreciation of the music deeper or, more to the point, more enjoyable? Not for a second.
When I originally bought this disc, I had serious doubts that MTV could actually be a venue through which the power of Nirvana could be honestly channelled. Turns out I was right, with the exception of that Leadbelly song, which Cobain snuck in at the end. And make no mistake, this last of last songs by Nirvana is incredibly powerful--it is everything this album should have been, and so makes the rest of the album seem lazy, inconsequential, or pointless as a result. ....
So do yourself a favor, and find a way to preview this album before you spend money on it.