What could this concert have looked like? “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with string quartet, “In Bloom” with flute solo, “Heart-Shaped Box” on harp.

    Nirvana, the world’s biggest rock band in November 1993, decided to do something different, didn’t take their most popular songs (except for “Come As You Are”), didn’t even take half of their own, and didn’t turn them into classic-pop . Instead, they played some songs from the recently released “In Utero” and lesser-known tracks from “Nevermind”.

    Most importantly, they played amazing, unexpected covers that reflected not only Kurt Cobain’s tastes, but also his ambition to push the boundaries of what Nirvana could be: a work of art in its own right and, as revealed six months after the recording, Cobain’s legacy .

    Touching cover versions

    It’s the cover songs that make MTV Unplugged In New York such a meaningful album. David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”, the three Meat Puppets songs “Plateau”, “Oh, Me” and “Lake Of Fire”. And the finale: “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”.

    As Cobain inhales before the last, heart and vocal cord tearing note, his screams like wolf howls. It is said that people wanted to persuade him to do an encore after this song, but Cobain refused: he could not surpass this performance.

    Incidentally, it is not the cover of a Lead Belly song, as is often read, but Cobain’s version of an American traditional that came about in the middle of the 19th century (even if Cobain is particularly oriented towards Lead Belly).

    The fear, the desperation, the frustration that characterized Cobain is in a very old folk tradition. Cobain was not a revolutionary, but the youngest bearer of this ancient torch. It never burned brighter than on that day, between the white lilies and the black candles.

    MTV is showing Nirvana’s unplugged performance as part of its 30th anniversary of MTV Unplugged. Broadcast date: Sunday 28 August at 11:15 p.m.

    The current issue of ROLLING STONE has a big special on the music station’s legendary live series. A list of the top 30 MTV Unplugged albums is also included.