By RYAN RITCHIE
Sans Kurt Cobain, the surviving members of Nirvana (bassist Krist Novoselic, drummer Dave Grohl, and guitarist Pat Smear) swore they'd never reunite to play songs from their former group.
Except they did. Last night. Twice.
The first was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the trio was joined by Joan Jett, Lorde, Kim Gordon, and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) for a mini-set that was so awesome you almost forgot it was for the corporate entity. The second was a 19-song secret show at Saint Vitus (also in Brooklyn) where Nirvana was fronted by the aforementioned foursome along with Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis and John McCauley from Deer Tick.
At first, you might think a Cobain-less Nirvana is a bad idea, but watch these videos before making judgement because, honestly, last night they fucking ruled. You want to know why? Because Nirvana is one of those bands that can't be covered properly, but, then again, Novoselic, Grohl, and Smear aren't a cover band. They're the real deal, and these videos remind us what Nirvana sounded like -- And in case you forgot, they were pretty good.
Smells Like Teen Spirit - A
The idea of Joan Jett fronting Nirvana has never crossed anyone's mind...except, obviously, the surviving members of Nirvana. And wouldn't you know? They know what they're doing cuz the former Runaway sounds really at ease with this tune, which is no easy task considering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is arguably the most important pop song since the 1960s. What makes this version so great is Jett herself, whose concentration during the opening makes her seem understandably nervous. Then, at the :08 mark, she tells her nerves to go fuck themselves and starts rocking in a way that lets us know she's having as much fun as we are. Cobain's death has often overshadowed Nirvana, but Jett's enthusiasm for this song reminds us that it's ok to listen to Nirvana without feeling sad.
School - A fucking +
J Mascis singing for Nirvana is, to use a terrible pun, nirvana.
Heart Shaped Box - A
Clark's vocals fit perfectly with this one, which reminds us of how Cobain's music was a rare combination of sensitivity and passionate anger. Then there's the Grohl/Novoselic twosome, which fucking slays. Listen to the build-up at the :54 second mark and try not to think that the world's best rock drummer has been singing neutered pop songs to an Abercrombie & Fitch crowd for the past two decades.
All Apologies - A
If Clark's take on "Heart Shaped Box" makes you wonder what sort of songwriter Cobain could have been for a female singer, Lorde's take on "All Apologies" is that answer because holy shit this version is the sort of good that makes you want to smile and cry at the same time.
"Aneurysm" - A
And then there's this. If there's an afterlife, and if Kurt Cobain is somewhere watching Kim Gordon sing his song, I've got to assume he's as into it as the rest of us are. Not only is the former Sonic Youth bassist dancing, screaming, and swinging the microphone like she means it, but there's a certain thing in knowing how much Cobain liked Sonic Youth.