Best concerts MTV Unplugged: Nirvana 1994

What could this concert have looked like? “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with string quartet, “In Bloom” with solo flute, “Heart-Shaped Box” on harp.

Nirvana, the biggest rock band in the world in November 1993, decided to do something different, didn’t take their most popular songs (except “Come As You Are”), didn’t didn’t even take half of theirs and turn them into classic pop. Instead, they played a few songs from the recent “In Utero” and lesser-known tracks from “Nevermind.”

Most importantly, they played amazing and unexpected covers that reflected not only Kurt Cobain’s tastes, but also his ambition to push the boundaries of what Nirvana could be: a work of art in its own right and, as revealed six months after recording, Cobain’s music legacy.

Touching cover versions

It’s the covers that make MTV Unplugged In New York such a meaningful album. “The Man Who Sold The World” by David Bowie, the three Meat Puppets songs “Plateau”, “Oh, Me” and “Lake Of Fire”. And the end: “Where did you sleep last night”.

As Cobain inhales before the end, heart-rending note and vocal cords, his screams sound like wolf howls. It is said that people wanted to persuade him to do an encore after this song, but Cobain refused: he couldn’t top this performance.

Besides, it’s not a cover of a Lead Belly song, as we often read, but Cobain’s version of an American traditional born in the middle of the 19th century (even if Cobain is particularly oriented to Lead Belly).

The fear, the despair, the frustration that characterized Cobain are in a very old folk tradition. Cobain was not a revolutionary, but the youngest bearer of this ancient torch. It never burned brighter than that day, between the white lilies and the black candles.

MTV presents the unplugged performances of Nirvana as part of its 30th anniversary of MTV Unplugged. Broadcast date: Sunday, August 28 at 11:15 p.m.

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ROLLING STONE’s current issue has a big special on the music station’s legendary live series. A list of the top 30 MTV Unplugged albums is also included.

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