“This is not pop music,” REM’s Michael Stipe says, as the beloved frontman inducts his friend Kurt Cobain’s unmatched band Nirvana into the Hall of Fame. “This is something much greater than that.” Leave it to Michael Stipe to sum it up perfectly. Krist Novoselic thanks all the Nirvana fans. Buzz Osbourne and Chad Channing both get a shout-out. Punk rock veterans Joan Jett and Kim Gordon come to the party. And no one cares about Kiss or Peter Gabriel.
So five days after the 20th anniversary of the day Kurt Cobain departed, here we are now; Nirvana have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, in an event everyone was talking about but hardly anyone was able to actually see.
I don’t know why the ceremony couldn’t have been properly broadcast somewhere; apparently May 31st is when it gets broadcast on HBO, but where non-US fans can watch it I’m not sure. Following an event almost exclusively on Twitter is something of a foreign experience to me, like trying to follow a sports event. I should reference Billboard.com here, because I followed the event almost exclusively via their tweets from the ceremony.
As much as I’ve had mixed feelings about Nirvana’s induction, I have to admit I’ve been very interested in what would happen on the night and what would be Nirvana’s first performance of Nirvana material in twenty years. Obviously it never looks right without Kurt, but nevertheless there’s something that gets the heart fluttering just a touch when you see Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear on stage. Add Kim Gordon to that and it’s difficult not to be drawn in.
It was a really interesting decision to have all girls singing on the songs, even though some of them I’ve never heard of (Lorde?), though Joan Jett always sounded a good recipe for Smells Like Teen Spirit and the arrival of Sonic Youth‘s Kim Gordon in the proceedings for Aneurysm is entirely fitting, her presence something I imagine Kurt would’ve been moved by.
I don’t know who’s decision it was for “ladies night”, as Novoselic called it; but it definitely made things interesting. And it seems well-fitting to Kurt’s tastes and sensibilities, given his love of and championing of numerous female-led bands or female singers.
That has a nice resonance to it, though I do wonder if Courtney was ever offered the chance to perform or whether she refused (which doesn’t sound like her), or whether the sheer tension between her and everyone else made it impossible.
Without knowing who else might’ve been asked but may have been unable to perform, it does seem like one or two of the singers on stage this evening weren’t necessarily the best possible choices. The choice that didn’t seem to work was Lorde singing All Apologies, which just sounds and feels wrong. Just a thought, but it might’ve made as much sense to have artists who’ve already covered certain songs to perform the night – for example, Sinead O’Connor has already covered All Apologies and might’ve been better suited than ‘Lorde’. Or, for example, Little Roy, who made a reggae album of Nirvana covers including a quite nice version of Lithium, might’ve performed Lithium instead? Again though, maybe other people were approached but unavailable.
I can’t help but consider that Kat Bjielland from Babes in Toyland/Katastrophy Wife might’ve been a really good option, as well as Bikini Kill, the Raincoats, or of course PJ Harvey. Consequently, Riot Grrrrrrl 2014 it wasn’t quite, but isn’t it just like Nirvana to be both great and a little awkward on the night?
Dave Grohl, in true Grohl-style, made it a point to pay respect to the other Nirvana drummers, including Chad Channing. This was in fact the first sentiment out of his mouth. Whatever you think of Grohl’s career or Foo Fighters, you cannot fault the man for his nature, spirit and attitude; and I’m really glad he acknowledged Chad.
I always feel Chad Channing is someone really, really overlooked, who deserves a lot more recognition in the scheme of things.
Krist, who seemed to get the biggest cheer, also thanked Jack Endino, Butch Vig and Steve Albini. “I want to thank Kurt Cobain,” Krist also says. We all do.
I love that Krist gave thanks to Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins – that’s just beautiful to hear, particularly amid such an unpunk environment as the Hall of Fame.
Kurt’s mother Wendy had probably spoken the most poignant sentiment of the night when she said Kurt would’ve loved this ceremony – he would’ve pretended that he didn’t, but he would’ve loved it.
Some on Twitter have noted the “tension” on stage when Courtney Love was standing alongside Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, though a shot of Courtney and Dave hugging is going viral; I’d love to think this was an indication of a sincere reconciliation and that the puerile nonsense of recent years can be left in the gutter. A journalist at the event tweeted that someone yelled “you don’t like Dave Grohl” as Courtney was hugging him.
To Courtney’s credit, she seemed to make a decision to play a quiet (by her standards), step-back role in the event, keeping her statement very brief and actually rather sweet. I might be turning into a bit of a softie, but her turning around and hugging Grohl does get me a little. She referred to Krist and Wendy as her “family” and apologized for Frances’s absence. She looked a little uncomfortable, but she was no doubt thinking of Kurt a great deal; and tweeters from the event have suggested that she did get booed somewhat. A certain film trailer currently getting some people hot and bothered indicates Courtney may have a rather uncomfortable year ahead of her, for that matter; but Courtney Love is one strong fucking lady.
“Nirvana captured lightning in a bottle,” said Kurt and Courtney’s friend Michael Stipe meanwhile, pronouncing that Nirvana pushed “us forward towards our individual and collective potential.”
Stipe further celebrated Kurt Cobain as an “outsider voice for the fags, the fat, the fed-up and the bullied.” That’s a brilliant sentiment.
Not that this induction represents Kurt Cobain’s apotheosis; no, his apotheosis was already accomplished a long time ago. This induction of Nirvana feels more like an afterthought on Kurt’s life and his contribution to music. It’s hardly punk rock anymore, really. I was re-watching Nirvana’s Reading Festival 92 video the other night and the sheer magic of that is something that can never be replicated, because there’s only one Kurt Cobain; “lightning in a bottle” as Stipe calls it.
But, you know what, I say anything that gets the surviving band-members back on a stage, anything that gets Kim Gordon rocking out on Aneurysm, anything that means we get to see Pat Smear totally nailing the Teen Spirit solo, and anything that ends in a (possibly) reconcilliatory embrace between Courtney Love and Dave Grohl, has got to be worth the trouble, right?
So, in closing, who the fuck is Lorde?