Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session is widely regarded as one the best performed for MTV. Back in 1993, they played a stripped-down which broke from the programme’s norm by including mainly lesser-known songs and covers. The idea of trying to recreate that storied performance seemed a daunting task.
Nevertheless, the need to be reminded of how amazing those songs were arranged and sounded tempted me to St Lukes in Glasgow’s east end, where Edinburgh’s Ewan MacKenna and accompanying band were offering the chance to hear them performed live once again, twenty-five years later. I wasn’t disappointed. Every song was performed with note-for-note perfection, the players giving their all and obviously loving the tunes as much as the audience.
The surroundings of St Lukes, a B-listed former church, suited the performance down to a tee with the acoustics that a church hall brings, chairs set out in congregation layout and the stage decorated with flowers akin to how it was on the MTV performance.
The band, headed by Ewan MacKenna, all had similar looks to the original line-up and definitely played like them. MacKenna wasn’t trying to emulate Kurt Cobain’s vocals however; his voice was strong in its own rmerit and well suited to the songs. As MacKenna mentioned later during the gig, they’re not a cover band – just a bunch of friends who came together to play some songs people want to hear.
From the initial About a Girl which settled the crowd in and went down a treat, other crowd pleasers were the David Bowie cover (The Man Who Sold the World), Pennyroyal Tea – which saw Ewan go solo as Kurt did back in ‘93 – Lake of Fire and a great rendition of Where Did You Sleep Last Night to finish.
The band kept to the original set list and support act Jon Mackenzie joined to accompany the others on the Meat Puppets tunes Plateau and Oh, Me.
Ewan told the sold-out crowd they’d approached the Glasgow band The Vaselines, whose Jesus Don’t Want Me for A Sunbeam Nirvana covered during the session, to let them know the gig was happening. They’d hoped they’d come along to join in, but unfortunately they couldn’t make it.
This was the first time the band have played the set live and it was fantastic. They hope to do it again, and I think they definitely should. I just wish the crowd could have shown a little more respect and refrained from chatting all throughout the acoustic gig. Maybe then, I could have heard it in its fullest glory.
Photo courtesy of Kerrin Carr.