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  • Chris Olson

Nirvana Unplugged and how it changed me as an acoustic singer

I have a lot of musical influences, some of which I have mentioned in earlier posts, but Kurt Cobain maintains a special place in the roots of me as a person, not just a UK acoustic singer.

My dad was a huge reason for this, exposing me to Nirvana albums early on in my musical education. One of these albums, the infamous MTV Unplugged in New York quickly became one of my most played albums of all time (I'm listening to it whilst I write this post).

nirvana unplugged acoustic singer chris olson

As an acoustic music fan

From a technical level, Cobain was efficient but no virtuoso. He has a scrappiness that for many is offensive and his raw vocals were as far from mainstream pop as you could get with a mainstream artist. But for many, it is his base level abilities and extraordinary character which elevate him to the level of demigod, plus his incredible songwriting abilities.

During his Unplugged set, the guitarist and singer displays a great array of melody, emotion, and drama in his performance - all aspects which I try to bring or convey when I play live.

The songs

A mixture of original acoustic songs and acoustic covers, the Nirvana Unplugged set is arguably one of the greatest set lists.

From the stripped down arrangements of their anthemic songs, such as About A Girl, Come As You Are, and Polly, to their tributes to great songwriters such as David Bowie (The Man Who Sold The World), The Meat Puppets (Lake of Fire), and The Vaselines (Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam). And who could forget their version of Lead Belly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night.

The last two tracks I mentioned were actually traditional songs but Cobain announced which versions he was paying tribute to during the Unplugged show.

His banter

Like the best live performances, Kurt Cobain does some brilliant connection with the audience in New York. He makes them laugh at one point telling his band that the audience might have to wait if he messes up.

He also has a good camaraderie with the Meat Puppets who join him on the show.

This showed me that even the most introverted of musicians, of which Cobain was definitely a member, could pull off an amazing, entertaining and compelling musical concert.

If you have never seen the show, I strongly urge you to seek it out.

It often shows up for free on YouTube or you can probably pick it up cheap on DVD. If you are planning on being a UK acoustic singer it is an absolute must-see.

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