Nirvana: Unplugged in New York


For those who were affected by Nirvana’s music, the recent release on DVD of Unplugged in New York might be seen as another way for Kurt Cobain’s widow to make a quick buck. At the same time, it is long overdue. The performance aired Dec. 14, 1993—five months before Cobain put a shotgun barrel in his mouth—and if people didn’t realize then what was going on in his head, they certainly can see it now in the unedited version offered on the DVD. Stripped of distortion, the songs take on a new beauty and sadness. With a set-list devoid of the “hits,” Cobain pays homage to artists who at the time weren’t exactly in the consciousness of MTV’s audience. He and the band make David Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World” and The Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” their own while sharing the stage with the Meat Puppets, then relatively unknown. Even more interesting is the interaction between Cobain and the band, as well as the audience. At times, Cobain appears awkward and nervous. Other times, he comes off as a prima donna, giving a look of disgust to one audience member’s song request. Cobain’s internal struggle is obvious—this performance proves once again how that sometimes makes for the best art.