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The Best Unplugged Performance Ever,
This review is from: MTV Unplugged in New York (Audio CD)
There is no mistake about everyone giving this album a rating of five stars. This is the most surprising, deep, insightful and soulful performance Nirvana had ever assembled.
The set begins with Cobain's dry sense of humor, coyly commenting "This song's off our first record, most people don't own it" before leading into the origins of Nirvana, "About a Girl". The acoustic element added a tremendous amount of depth and yearning to this song, and it was only the beginning. "Come As You Are" was unearthed like a brand new creation; echoes reverberating magically through the small concert hall. Expectations were high - what could follow this great 1-2 punch opening?
Yes, Nirvana was playing a cover in their Unplugged set. The crowd sat silent as Kurt revealed the next song was written by The Vaselines, and the band began a beautiful rendition of "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam". This song was brought out of nowhere and instantly spread across the world by Cobain's range, Krist Novoselic changing gears and playing the accordian, and the others playing as though this was their song all along.
The assimilation of others' music into Nirvana's repetoire continues with the next track, David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World". Cobain cheats a bit and distorts his acoustic guitar, but with simple and haunting results. In all honesty, Nirvana's version sounds miles better than the original, and was played (and still is played) on alternative radio stations across the country.
The following quintet returned to Nirvana originals, all performed in the same emotional intensity that doesn't skip a beat anywhere in this performance. Kurt playing solo on "Pennyroyal Tea" is worth the price of this disc alone, with its indescribable power only preceded by his dry humor ("I think I'm going to try it in the normal key, and if it sounds bad... these people are just going to have to wait.") "Polly", "Dumb", "On a Plain" and "Something in the Way" all floored the audience, each sounding like an entirely new song and infinitely improved.
Kurt invited his longtime friends the Kirkwood Brothers, constituents of the band the Meat Puppets. The story goes, Kurt sat his wife Courtney Love down to play some incredible songs for her. He put on the Meat Puppets' originals, and Love loathed how rushed each song felt. Kurt then brought out his guitar and played the songs *his* way, and she was absolutely floored. If you compare the originals to Kurt's covers, you will agree. His essence absolutely floods these three songs, especially the amazing "Oh Me".
In closing, the full Nirvana band returned to play an appropriate and impressive "All Apologies", then one last masterpiece - a cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?". Cobain hides absolutely nothing and pours every last drop of his trademark vocal strain into this song. The instrumental outro leaves you feeling not only satisfied, but it gently returns you to your day, leaving this transported place that defies all definition, exceeds all expectation, and transcends all time.
The fans cheered for an encore, and Grohl, Novoselic and Smear felt up to it - they went to ask Kurt, and he denied the request; he had nothing left to give. After listening to this disc, you have nothing to do but agree.
And one last tidbit - this performance was all recorded in one take. Another legacy of Nirvana's unimaginable talent.