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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Nirvana: Unplugged In New York
Nirvana: Unplugged In New York
Other // Unrated // November 20, 2007
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted November 29, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
I've had a longstanding, if somewhat tangential, relationship with Nirvana fans for years due to my decades-long research about Frances Farmer, who Nirvana fans know through Cobain's song "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle." I receive scores of emails weekly from readers of my online Farmer article, and many of them come from Cobain-heads, who seem to think I am the fount of Nirvana wisdom for some reason. Among the more frequently asked questions I have received is when Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert was ever going to be released on DVD. I can now answer with some certainty: it's out, and, in even better news, in an unedited version.

Nirvana, though probably known best as one of the progenitors of the Northwest's grunge music scene, actually is one of the more sophisticated rock groups of recent memory, no doubt due to Cobain's (perhaps drug-fueled) stream of consciousness lyrics and his distinctive harmonic, frequently minor keyed, palette. What might be unexpected in this format is Nirvana's excellent adaptation to a quieter, less thrash-worthy instrumentation (though on some songs, like the David Bowie cover "The Man Who Sold the World," they are able to get an almost fuzz-like sound from their acoustic guitars, albeit with pickups).

The concert features a few Nirvana hits, including "Come as You Are," but also includes some relative rarities (at least in the days when the concert was taped), such as "About a Girl," from their pre-In Utero notoriety (though personally I would have loved to have heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and, you guessed it, "Frances Farmer" in this context). Cobain looks clear-eyed, plays and sings wonderfully, and, though not exactly a model of stage-savviness, occasionally interacts with the audience with an understated and introspective aplomb, as when he tells the band the audience will have to wait as he decides which key is going to work for "Pennyroyal Tea." In fact, Cobain seems more at ease interacting with Dave Grohl and other bandmates than in ever making sustained eye contact with the audience.

The DVD finally presents the first (authorized) release of three additional songs, "Something in the Way," a funny (though abbreviated) version of "Sweet Home Alabama" (with guests The Meat Puppets, who stick around for "Plateau") and "Oh, Me" (also with the Puppets). While the "new" material may not be earth-shattering, or even very long, it finally allows Nirvana fans a chance to see the complete concert, as it was performed at the time.

Cobain has become even more of a cult figure since his suicide (let's put aside conspiracy notions of a Love-fueled murder). Bootlegs seem to appear by the bucketfull every few months, so fans should be thrilled with an authorized, well-mastered release of one of Nirvana's seminal, and most unusual, concerts.

The DVD

Video:
The full frame, shot on video image is in excellent condition, thankfully. Unlike some other early 90s video, there is absolutely no softness, and colors are perfect.

Sound:
The sound on this DVD is phenomenal, with three excellent choices available, standard stereo, DTS 5.1, and Dolby 5.1. There's very little talking on this DVD, aside from Cobain's occasional asides, and the music is reproduced lovingly, with great separation and excellent fidelity.

Extras:
A host of great extras augment this DVD, including the original (edited) MTV version of the concert, an MTV "Bare Witness" promos advertising the concert, and, best for fans, raw rehearsal footoage of several tunes, where it's interesting to view Cobain a little more out of his shell, probably due to no audience being present.

Final Thoughts:
Nirvana Unplugged in New York is going to be a must-have for all Nirvana fans, but may also appeal to a lot of people not previously interested in this band. The Unplugged format works surprisingly well for this band, and reveals a wealth of hidden layers in both their music and lyrics.

____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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