MTV Unplugged will go down in music history as one of the best live performance shows of its generation. Over the course of its run, there were so many incredible performances from a myriad of musical acts. The high point of the shows run was definitely between 1991-1997, which included sets from 10,000 Maniacs, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, Stone Temple Pilots, Eric Clapton, and one of Alice In Chains‘ final performances as a band.
One of the most memorable airings of Unplugged series, without a doubt, was when Kurt Cobain and his Nirvana bandmates took to the stage on November 18th, 1993 to record a performance for the ages. The days leading up to the performance didn’t go without their fair share of issues, with Cobain being beyond tense and nervous to perform a completely acoustic show (he demanded the use of effects pedals), as well arguing with MTV personnel as to the overall direction of the show and the band’s choice on having members of the Meat Puppets join them on stage.
Despite the issues, and Cobain’s clearly fragile state of mind during that time period (remember, this was roughly six months before his untimely death), the one-take, no frills performance was one of the most stripped down performances in the history of Unplugged, while also being one of its most impressive airings as well. The group opened up with “About A Girl”, the only number performed from the band’s 1989 debut album Bleach and chose a setlist that strayed from their more commercial hits, outside of “Come As You Are” from 1991’s Nevermind.
Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl were joined by guest including future Foo Fighter Pat Smear (acoustic guitar), Lori Goldston (cello), and both Chris and Kirk Curtwood of The Meat Puppets on acoustic bass and guitar, respectively; the latter of which performed three of their own tracks, including “Plateau,” “Oh, Me,” and “Lake Of Fire.”
The rest of the performance includes a gritty, yet beautiful take on David Bowie‘s “The Man Who Sold The World,” and the originals “Polly,” “Dumb,” and “All Apologies,” among others. Take a listen to the full airing below:
Nirvana MTV Unplugged Setlist
About a Girl
Come as You Are
Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam (Eugene Kelly, Frances McKee)
The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
On a Plain
Something in the Way
Plateau (Curt Kirkwood)
Oh, Me (Kirkwood)
Lake of Fire (Kirkwood)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Traditional; arranged by Lead Belly)