The best Unplugged album EVER!

todayApril 9, 2024 12

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During the late 80’s MTV did a series of Unplugged performances – yes, remember when they were all oaout music, not reality TV shows? It started out as a once-off, but soon grew in  popularity and, never missing an opportunity, MTV expanded it into a series of 101 performances that were filmed. Some were better, some not so good, and in the end only 30-odd were actually released as albums, which was the original intention. I’ve seen  most of the concerts, and certainly have heard all the albums, and most were pretty good – some that stand out are Eric Clapton (started the whole Unplugged thing), Pearl Jam, Oasis and Jay-Z (and I’m not even a fan!). But there is one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest…and probably is high on the list of greatest live performances of all time – Nirvana Unplugged.  It features Kurt Cobain at his snarling depressed finest – and knowing what we know now, it carries a special poignancy.

Unplugged wasn’t Nirvana’s last concert. In fact, just one week after it wrapped they would continue with the American leg of the In Utero tour and then head to Europe early the following year for two months of additional shows. But in so many ways, the show felt like their final statement to the world…in fact, it really was Kurt Cobain “saying goodbye” or “disengaging”. So am I reading too much into the show? I don’t think so. The vibe was dark before they even walked on since Kurt Cobain insisted that the stage look like a funeral, complete with lilies and black candles. Joined by touring guitarist Pat Smear and cellist Lori Goldston, the group skipped over nearly all of their obvious hits in favor of covers like David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” The Vaselines’ “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and no less than three Meat Puppets songs, where they were joined by bandleaders Cris and Curt Kirkwood themselves. Close to the start of the show, Kurt delivered a chilling rendition of “Come as You Are,” repeating the line “no, I don’t have a gun” through gritted teeth, a moment that became very hard to watch in light of later events. The show wraps up with “All Apologies” and a cover of Lead Belly’s “In The Pines,” which they renamed “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s hard to think of a more powerful double shot from any live concert in the entire 1990s, or perhaps even the entire history of rock & roll. I love this album – it’s one of the sets I listen to the most. And it has some great performances…in fact, it sends chills down the spine…


Written by: Deon v Rensburg

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