The surviving members of Nirvana reunited at the Hollywood Palladium Saturday night (Jan. 4) to dust off their classics for the Art of Elysium’s “Heaven is Rock and Roll” gala.
The organization was founded in 1997 and works to connect disadvantaged people (particularly children) with volunteering artists.
As with their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performance in 2014, drummer Dave Grohl, bassist Krist Novoselic, and guitarist Pat Smear called on St. Vincent to sing in place of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. But this time around, Beck and Grohl’s 13-year-old daughter Violet also contributed vocals during the five-song set.
The trio also organized a brief Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam ’18 in San Bernardino, Calif., but were affected enough by the cause to make a rare return to the stage, in front of a crowd made up of Art of Elysium staff, volunteers, benefactors, celebrities, and a small selection of fans who were allowed in.
“We said we weren’t going to do this for another four or five years but we couldn’t resist the temptation,” Novoselic told the crowd.
The night’s theme was conceived by WE ARE HEAR — the artist empowerment entity founded by multiplatinum producers Linda Perry and Kerry Brown, and featured giant poster art by artist Kii Arens. Perry and Brown also put in calls to some big names to make it a night to remember. Here are the best moments.
Grohl, Novoselic, and Smear deliberately choose to revisit their illustrious past as little as possible, so it feels like a real occasion every time they perform Nirvana songs. Even after all this time, they still know how to make those classics hit as hard as Cobain intended, and so there was barely a wasted second during their set. St Vincent’s Annie Clark sang a measured but powerful “Lithium” before Beck stepped up to sing “In Bloom” (complete with scorching guitar solo) and a riotous version of Incesticide track “Been a Son.” “The most insane mosh pit of my life was in this room,” recalled Beck, referring to Nirvana’s 1990 show opening for Sonic Youth. “I remember being lifted up the whole time and afterwards, my hands were bleeding and I didn’t know why.” Thirty years later, he was evidently living his fanboy dreams on the Palladium stage. If his smile had been any wider, it would have been visible from space. Both St. Vincent and Beck united later for the David Bowie cover “The Man Who Sold The World” (which Nirvana made their own during 1993’s MTV Unplugged set), but the low-key star may well have been Grohl’s daughter Violet, who used her low, mournful voice to deliver a moving version of “Heart-Shaped Box.”
Cheap Trick do Cheap Trick
The Chicago power-pop legends finished the night with all the charisma and melodic punch that has sustained them through over 40 years on the circuit. Guitarist Rick Nielsen playfully tossed out guitar picks and album sleeves, singer Robin Zander posed in his sequined top hat, and they served up “Dream Police” and “Surrender” with the enthusiasm of a band playing them for the first time. After all these years, they never fail to put smiles on everyone’s faces.
Marilyn Manson Takes it Down a Notch
The shock-rocker put theater to the side for the night, choosing instead to deliver moody, understated versions of “The Dope Show” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” backed by Linda Perry on keys. Manson acknowledged her at the end of his slot by ad-libbing in a line from 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” — much to everyone’s amusement. Cheeky devil.
L7 Rip it Up
Kicking off the night were the local heroines who had to work hard to warm up the refined, black-tie atmosphere with their opener “Fuel My Fire.” Luckily, star of NBC’s Grimm David Giuntoli and A Million Things’ James Roday were on hand to start up the mosh-pit, as was Novoselic, who danced on the floor like no one was watching throughout their three-song set. Bassist Jennifer Finch was clearly thrilled to see her old friend again (L7 toured with Nirvana) and at the set’s conclusion, embraced Novoselic warmly. It was a moment to melt the heart of even the most cynical grunge-rocker.