It should be hard to predetermine the defining moment in a mega-music extravaganza that includes an intimidating list of legendary artists, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Eric Clapton, and Billy Joel. However, at New York City's charitable 12-12-12 concert, which earmarked proceeds for victims of Superstorm Sandy, talk was overwhelmingly all about one act: Paul McCartney, who would reportedly be joining the surviving members of '90s phenomenon Nirvana on stage.
The hype for this appearance was such that everyone from late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, to industry standard publication Billboard saw fit to discuss it prior to Wednesday night's broadcast. Although former Nirvana members Dave Grohl (now frontman for the multiplatinum-selling Foo Fighters) and Krist Novoselic had, indeed, performed live together at times over the past few years, speculation continued to center upon which song Macca would deem fit to make his grunge debut upon.
The producers of the show wisely recognized the value of the gossip and saved the collaboration for the very last minutes of a nearly six-hour broadcast. By the time McCartney took the stage--way past midnight in New York--the audience was vibrating with expectation.
"Recently, some guys asked me to jam with them," McCartney finally announced to the crowd. "So I showed up, ready to jam, and in the middle of it these guys said we haven't played together in a few years...I finally understood that I was in the middle of a Nirvana reunion." He then introduced Grohl and Novoselic; as well as erstwhile Nirvana member Pat Smear, who played guitar for the band for a year prior to Cobain's 1994 suicide and currently plays in Grohl's Foo Fighters.
The trio--with Grohl, Novoselic, and Smear reprising their original Nirvana roles and McCartney handling vocals--launched into a bluesy original best described as a combination of McCartney's harder Beatles/Wings compositions with a bit of Nirvana's melodic edge.
When the song ended, the audience--both live and watching via stream--held its collective breath waiting for McCartney to launch into one of Nirvana's familiar hits. Would it be "Smells Like Teen Spirit"..."Come As You Are"..."Heart Shaped Box"? Alas, was to be none of these. Grohl, Novoselic, and Smear exited promptly, leaving McCartney to return to his own material.
Fan response on Twitter was mixed: "I had a better nirvana reunion with my Walkman earlier today," griped one, while others praised the once-in-a-lifetime collab."If there is a heaven it definitely consists of a daily concert from this Paul McCartney Nirvana mashup," approved a happy fan.
Those who liked the new song can rest assured it will soon be available. According to the Foo Fighters' social media, the tune is titled "Cut Me Some Slack" (listen to it here), and will be on the soundtrack to Sound City, a new film directed by Grohl that will premiere in February.
Prior to his much hyped collaboration, McCartney entertained the crowd nicely on his own. He began his set by stating simply, "I love New York," then launching into the Beatles' "Helter Skelter," followed by Wings' "Let Me Roll It," "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five," and new song "My Valentine" off of his 2012 release Kisses on the Bottom. He then returned to classic material, offering "Blackbird," "I've Got A Feeling," and "Live And Let Die," the latter two coming after his appearance with the Nirvana crew.
The McCartney/Nirvana appearance wasn't the only highlight for music fans in the lengthy concert, which included modern superstars as well as classic artists. Other fun surprises included R.E.M's Michael Stipe popping up unexpectedly to join Coldplay's Chris Martin for the '90s gem "Losing My Religion," Kanye West rocking a black leather skirt (yes, skirt!), and a short but effective two-song set from the Stones.
Donations to Sandy victims can be made by visiting 121212concert.org.
Watch McCartney and Nirvana's full performance: