Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York
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132 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2007
Thanks to the legal hijinks that dragged on long after Kurt Cobain's death, anything Nirvana-related was put on hold. After the legal resolution a couple of years ago, a 3-cd set of unreleased recordings saw the light of day (With The Lights Out), not to mention the obligatory "best of" (Nirvana). Now finally comes the somewhat legendary "MTV Unplugged" show. This set still draws some mixed reactions, even if most fans agree it's brilliant. Taped just months before Cobain's suicide, it's both startingly raw and disturbingly planned, with the band playing amongst candles and flowers (stargazer lilies, to be precise)--more than a few people noted it seemed like a funeral, and indeed that's the way Cobain intended it. Other details that stand out include the fact that while most of the band sit propped on wooden stools, Cobain sits in what appears to be a standard swiveling office chair ("I have very bad posture," indeed!) and the presence of ex-Germ (and future Foo Fighter) Pat Smear, who backs Cobain up as a second guitarist. Anyway, for all its emblamatic status, "Unplugged" also gave a somewhat false impression of the band, and Cobain in particular. Instead of the decidedly plugged in punk the band was known for, Cobain was transformed into a pained-looking, cardigan sweater wearing ghost warbling about how Jesus didn't want him for a sunbeam. Another MTV broadcast, taped just a few months before "Unplugged" the suitably-named "Live and Loud" show, could restore the balance somewhat, but of course it hasn't been officially released on DVD yet. Nevertheless, "Unplugged" retains an almost atavistic hold on the viewer, and is still one of the most intense musical performances ever broadcast on television.

Instead of a basic acoustic run-through of their hits, the band used the opportunity to put a new spin on some of their album tracks. The songs "Polly" and "Dumb" were pretty much unplugged before, but in the context of this show became brillianty-etched character studies. The main character, however, was always Cobain, and his songs constant references to death and alienation became all the more chilling here. "Unplugged" is, therefore, something of an audiovisual suicide note. No suicide note has been as exhilerating as this one, though. If you never believed in the concept of catharsis, this might chance your mind.

The band also used the show to highlight some of their own favorite music, and five of the songs here are covers, all of them given new life by their inclusion here. David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" now seems like Cobain speaking from his grave, even if he wasn't dead yet. The tradional ballad "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" was performed by one of Cobain's favorite bands, The Vaselines, but this version was both tribute and personal statement. Three songs from Meat Puppets II, with Chris and Kurt Kirkwood from that band joining in, also seemed handpicked for their metaphorical content, most notably the damnation-themed "Lake of Fire."

What makes this DVD more than just a keepsake is the fact that the entire performance, complete with between song banter and mistakes, are included, as well as the original broadcast version. The uncut "Unplugged" also has 14 songs, compared with the broadcast version's 12. Of course, all the songs can be found on the CD version (MTV Unplugged in New York), but now it's available in full 5.1 glory (and done remarkably well, I might add). The long version also includes a very brief, abortive version of "Sweet Home Alabama," done as "the Brothers Meat" (as Cobain says) were setting up. While the retrospective documentary also included here is disapointinly light on information, it does include a short clip of Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo, who was at the taping. So while this is pretty much essential for fans, even the curious will want to check this out. Hopefully, some of Nirvana's electric performances will be released soon, but this is still a unique performance that easily transcends the era when it was done.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2007
Maybe Kurt was just at the right place at the right time. Maybe he was a sloppy guitar player. But he was a good song writer and he was honest. Call it Nirvana. That's what it is.

I was 12, maybe 13 when I was first truly starting to love this band. Something spoke to me. After seeing the Unplugged performance on Much Music I had to own it on video. Finally today, 13 years later, I am.

Nirvana unplugged was to me then what it is to me now. An honest performance of a band at its best that spoke to a generation and more.

Call Cobain what you will. He is the Elvis and The Beatles of a later generation.

And just so you know, there hasn't been an artist in rock as big since.

To finally see the entire concert uncut in the pleasure of my own home is a blessing. As a bonus, you can view the original aired version. The rehearsals offer insight into how the night was played out. See why Kurt was worried about screwing up 'The Man Who Sold The World', and why 'PennyRoyal Tea' was a solo performance. See for yourself why Nirvana Unplugged is a testament of time.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
Awesome. I am so impressed with this release. Not only is the sound and picture fantastic, but they have both the original mtv edit of the show and the unedited version of the show. They finally got it right!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2007
The Nirvana unplugged concert on MTV is burned into my soul as one of my fondest memories of the 1990's. The song writing was brilliant and the sound was so raw.

It's sad that such a peaceful, mellow, and talented era was replaced by a bunch of corporate lip syncing jokers. MTV barely even plays music anymore. Yeah, they had non-music stuff in the 1990's such as the rock and jock games, singled out with Jenny McCarthy, and Beavis and Butthead (but at least they had a music theme to them). Every show today on MTV is just an excuse to show half naked teenage girls, and promote a shallow lifestyle.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It's been fifteen years since this show aired on MTV. Since then, the accompanying CD has become a staple with most fans of the band, while the show itself became a distant memory. On one hand, it just doesn't feel like fifteen years have passed since then; the music still sounds fresh, vital and contemporary. On the other hand, my son barely knew how to walk when this was filmed, and now he's applying for a driver's license. I guess perspective is everything. In its time, the most jarring aspect of this performance rested in how well these songs worked in an acoustic environment. Here was this intense, electrified, post-punk indie band playing at James Taylor volumes. Kurt Cobain remains seated throughout, while Dave Grohl plays his drums with a deft touch, using brushes. Against all expectations, the show rocked in ways that nobody could have predicted, and finally, the evidence is available on DVD for all to see.
So many of these songs are classics in their own right, but many have been surpassed by the specific versions featured in this program. "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam," "The Man Who Sold the World," "All Apologies" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" represent some of the best music that our culture had to offer, and what held true in '93 still holds true today. This performance seemed simple and charming in its time, but has grown to represent so much more. Watching this, it is impossible to not mourn the loss of Kurt Cobain. What he could have achieved is incalculable, but there is so much evidence here pointing to the raw and crucial nature of his artistic creativity. We are so much worse off without him than we tend to acknowledge. Considering that he passed away within six months of this show, it now takes on the airs of a eulogy, an impression that is heightened by the candles and flowers that adorn the stage.
On a technical note, this DVD contains the unedited performance, including songs that did not appear on the original MTV broadcast. For purists and impatient types, it also contains the edited version as aired by MTV. The extra tracks and between-song banter only add to the casual brilliance of this performance, and the recording is so crystal clear that you can hear the texture of Grohl's brushes on the cymbals. As rock and roll films go, this is classic, like footage from Woodstock, or Altamont. It seemed so simple at the time, but nothing like it has appeared since then. An entire generation has now come of age that never had the opportunity to see Nirvana, and specifically this show. Now that I've watched it a few times, I know what I must do. I need to give this to my son. before he leaves for college.
A+ Tom Ryan
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2010
Love this concert...remaster it, do some media about it and get it out on Blu-ray. We get a nice moment in time and MTV can get their $$...which is what they whored out to in the end anyways.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2007
I just got done with my review for DVDFanatic... This is an excellent release for many reasons. Here are excerpts from my review:

Finally we are able to see the entire unedited performance that took place on stage at Sony Studios in New York City on November 18, 1993. In addition to that, for the MTV-lovers out there, you get the original MTV broadcast performance and a few other goodies.

Though there is a small part of me that wishes there was a 16x9 presentation of this, but I am happier to have the originally shot and intended 4:3 Full Frame aspect ratio. It looks fine, but is noticably from the mid-`90s It may have restotred a little, but ahsn't really been refined or sharpened. Either way, still brighter and better than a VHS taped from TV in 1994!

Available are a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, DTS 5.1 track and the original Dolby Digital Stereo. I found myself watching the MTV broadcast in Stereo, but pumping the DTS for the unedited set. The 5.1 mixes put you in the room with the band; the subtle roaring of this "acoustic" crowd surrounds you. And though there is a minor difference between the DD and DTS, it is basically negligable when the music is playing. They are both a mix well done.

An eight-page color booklet inside has more photos (some from the CD booklet) and a page with the show's setlist, players, DVD credits, etc.

Considering what this is (a mid-`90s TV special), they did a great job in presenting a comprehensive package to fans. Of course, one could argue that the entire performance is a bonus feature, but MTV and Geffen opt to consider the original MTV performance the bonus material instead - making the unedited performance the main feature. This is brilliant. In addition to that, you get an older MTV special and rehearsal footage. It's not a lot, but it is pretty much everything you could have asked for that has something to do with the event at hand. I really can't think of anything lacking here, except perhaps a commentary from Grohl and Novoselic. But who was going to seriously cross their fingers and hope for that.

· Original MTV Version (45:37) - The ever-so-familiar original broadcast, complete with logos, commercial breaks and song titles, is actually really great to watch every now and then for nostalgia purposes. Some songs were edited out of order and others were dropped altogether, but this broadcast version is the one that fans have burned into their memories. You can choose a song individually or "Play All." The same three audio tracks are available for this performance as are for the main feature.
· MTV News: Bare Witness (14:04) - This is a great retrospective from 1999 made up of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Fans, MTV personnel, members of the media, fellow musicians, and more comment on the evening. The piece actually does a great job of putting the uniqueness and what made this evening so special into perspective. For some it will serve as a reminder; for others it will attempt to explain history. It's the best and most appropriate featurette that could have been included. Excellent.
· The Rehearsals (22:33) - In this area of the Bonus Features menu you will find five songs from the rehearsal to view. What's odd is that there is no "Play All" option and you have to select each song individually... or so it seems. Actually, if you select the first song, all others will play in order after it. The collection is absolutely fantastic behind-the-scenes footage of Cobain, just practicing and chatting with the band. It's great to watch and a much-appreciated addition to the set. Rehearsal performances include: "Come As You Are," "Polly," "Plateau," "Pennyroyal Tea" and "The Man Who Sold the World."

Nirvana: Unplugged in New York is a must own for fans. For the first time, you will see the full performance that took place that night, and you'll get to experience it in a great 5.1 surround mix. In addition, you get the original broadcast version, rehearsal footage and a nice featurette on the event. There is no better way to spend $12, so make room next to Live! Tonight! Sold Out! on the shelf and purchase immediately.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2008
I had the pleasure of watching this on MTV when it orignally aired and of buying this cd when it orignally came out. This recording from Unplugged is without a doubt is one of the best "live" Nirvana cd's ever released. The cover of "The man who sold the world" , "Jesus doesn't want me for a sunbeam", "lake of fire" and "where did you sleep last night" are some of the best cover songs I have ever heard. A a long time Nirvana fan hearing them play acoustically is quite a treat not many bands can give such a stellar acoustic preformance.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2007
This performance cemented Nirvana's reputation as being more than just a band of the moment, it elevated Kurt Cobain to the pantheon of great musician/songwriters and convinced any naysayers that he truly was THE artist of his generation. Songs from Nevermind and In Utero like "All Apologies" and "Something In The Way," stripped to their skeletal parts, revealed facets previously unnoticed, and a depth the studio versions failed to capture. Nirvana's Unplugged performance became the measuring stick against all other Unplugged performances, and nothing held a candle to it. It has become a moment in time for a generation, and it was no wonder that MTV replayed the performance ad infinitum when Kurt was found dead in his home several months later. It also happens to be the one performance that bears repeat viewing, which owes much to the careful orchestration of the set and song choices by Nirvana. From the start with a "ABOUT A GIRL" a song from the first Nirvana album, which Kurt states 'no one really knows this song,' to the cathartic final performance of "WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT" culminating in a primal scream, which still gives me chills when I see it.

I can't wait to see this again, and again...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2011
I never really liked Nirvana until I happened to see part of Nirvana's "Unplugged" on TV one day when I was flipping channels. I am a "Baby Boomer" who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc. When I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the radio I didn't really like it. About the only so-called "Grunge Rock" that I liked was Neil Young's "Mirror Ball" and some of his other work with "Crazy Horse." (Of course anything by Neil Young is great). And Nirvana Unplugged is great. I bought both the DVD and CD; they are both 5 star recordings. If you are a "Classic Rocker" like myself and think you don't like Nirvana, watch this one. You will love it.
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