On December 16, 1993 a show aired that would ultimately be the closest I would ever get to seeing the most influential band in my life live in concert. It was on MTV, sometime in the evening and I watched along with thousands of others across the country as Nirvana took to the stage to perform what would be their most poignant and, possibly most important, show ever. Less than a year later, the lead singer, Kurt Cobain, would commit suicide, effectively ending the grunge movement of the early 90’s. While many of the bands of that time would persevere it would be that moment that would signal an end of an era. After his death, the concert that was broadcast would finally be released as the final album of the short lived band, this is Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York.
Why This Album?
Sometime in 1991 I was introduced to Nirvana by a close friend of mine named Grayson. One day, as we were listening to music, he put on a black tape entitled Bleach by a band I had never heard of. Immediately the sludgy, muddy guitar complemented with the edgy, somewhat distraught voice of Cobain, would fill my head and heart with a sound I didn’t know I had been looking for. Not long after, he gave me that tape and I would be hooked from that day forward.
From that point on I set out to own each and every song Nirvana released, I collected singles, compilations, b-sides and rarities, so when it was announced that they were to play on the new famous MTV Unplugged, I was ready with my blank JVC video cassette to record the entire thing. Once I did, I watched it, over and over. I was amazed that this grunge singer had such an amazing range that he only had hinted on with songs like Pennyroyal Tea and Something In The Way. To hear this band stripped down, it revealed a much more subtle version of a band I had already come to adore. In many ways it hinted at what could be on the horizon in their musical evolution, with an apparent focus on folk music and more introspective tunes. Sadly, we never got to see what was in store for Nirvana after this concert as it would be only 5 months later that Kurt would no longer be alive. In an odd way, this concert would later serve as a coda to the band that was Nirvana as, for a while, it would be the final album released by the band.
The very first track is by far one of my favorites as it came from the first album, bleach, and the band I was in while in High School covered it. So, you could say it holds an important spot in my heart.
The cover of The Man Who Sold The World has always been one of my all time favorite tracks. And is another we covered as a band…
Of course, the Meat Puppets cover, ‘Oh, Me’
Honestly, this entire concert is something special. Give it a go in whatever format you can find. It’s all amazing.
Ok, Where do I get it?
You can grab a copy of the album here for around $13 but if you want to really experience the show I recommend grabbing the video release. They are kinda tough to find these days but are totally worth your time. Or you could search youtube… just sayin. If you just want to give it a listen and still don’t want to buy a copy, try it here on Spotify. No matter what, do yourself a favor and give it a go. It is pretty amazing.
Since this album’s release there has been more of their music released including a tremendous boxed set called With The Lights Out that contains some amazing never before released tracks. If you were like me and tracked down some of the ‘bootlegs’ back in the day, you might be familiar with some of these songs, but overall, there are some true gems there. If you loved this band as much as I did and still do, I highly recommend diving back in. There are some pretty amazing songs that you might not have ever heard.
Late to the Game 5/4/21 (a version of this article was originally published 11/27/18)
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