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11 Times the Surviving Members of Nirvana Reunited

Billboard logo Billboard 1/6/2020 Heran Mamo

Despite Nirvana's disbanding in 1994 following frontman Kurt Cobain's death, it still smells like teen spirit in 2020. Drummer Dave Grohl reunited with his fellow surviving members -- founding bassist Krist Novoselic and touring guitarist Pat Smear -- on Saturday at the Art of Elysium's 13th annual "Heaven Is Rock & Roll" gala. 

"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 benefit's attendees, as the trio was joined onstage by guest vocalists St. Vincent's Annie Clark, Beck and Grohl's 13-year-old daughter Violet.

The influential rockers have reassembled on different stages over the years, from New York City's Madison Square Garden in 2012 to the Hollywood Palladium this past weekend, and Billboard has recounted them below.

Check out all the times Nirvana's surviving members got the band back together.

Grohl and Smear reunite with Novoselic and Nevermind producer Butch Vig for Foo Fighters' 2011 album Wasting Light.

The first recorded time Nirvana's living bandmates reunited was not onstage, but in a recording studio in 2010. Foo Fighters frontman Grohl and guitarist Smear brought Novoselic onto their seventh studio album, Wasting Light, as a guest bassist. The album, which topped the Billboard 200 in April 2011, was also produced by longtime Nirvana collaborator Vig, who produced the grunge rockers' second studio album, Nevermind. At the time, Grohl said he hadn't worked with Vig in 20 years and the album was "going to be our heaviest record yet," according to his interview with Zane Lowe for BBC Radio 1.

Guest frontman Paul McCartney gets "in the middle of a Nirvana reunion" for 12-12-12: Concert for Sandy Relief.

When the Beatles legend performed at Madison Square Garden for 12-12-12: Concert for Sandy Relief, he brought out three special guest performers -- Grohl, Novoselic and Smear -- to debut their new collaborative track "Cut Me Some Slack." McCartney explained how the song came together to the crowd: "Recently some guys asked me to go jam with them. So I showed up like you do, you know, ready to jam. And in the middle of it, these guys keep going, 'We haven't played together for years.' So, you know, the penny finally dropped -- I finally understood I was in the middle of a Nirvana reunion."

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McCartney and Nirvana's surviving members take the Saturday Night Live stage in 2012. 

The legendary foursome switched NYC venues from Madison Square Garden to Studio 8H for an SNL rendition of "Cut Me Some Slack" when McCartney was the show's musical guest that evening.

McCartney performs "Cut Me Some Slack" with Grohl, Novoselic and Smear for the Seattle stop of his Out There Tour in 2013.

Cut them some slack! Third time's the charm for McCartney, Grohl, Novoselic and Smear to perform their joint jam live. When the Beatles vet performed in the grunge band's hometown of Seattle in 2013 for his Out There Tour, he brought his famed collaborators out at Safeco Field for an encore. The following year, "Cut Me Some Slack" went on to win best rock song at the Grammys. 

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The three male rock stars get support from four female rockers -- Joan Jett, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, St. Vincent's Clark and Lorde -- for their 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony performance.

In the band's first year of eligibility, Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the subsequent performance "seemed practically impossible," according to the surviving members' 2014 interview with Rolling Stone. Grohl, Novoselic and Smear hadn't yet performed an original Nirvana song without Cobain. "It was hard to imagine jumping onstage and playing those songs. It takes a little bit of musical preparation, and a lot of emotional preparation," Grohl said at the time. But with the vocal assist of Jett, Gordon, Clark and Lorde, the A-list rockers took Brooklyn's Barclays Center by storm.

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The bandmates head to a Brooklyn club after their 2014 Rock Hall induction for a secret follow-up performance.

The four-song set they were alotted for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction did not suffice for Grohl, Novoselic and Smear. So they packed up their gear and ventured to another Brooklyn hot spot for a super-exclusive bonus show: the Saint Vitus metal club in Greenpoint. J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. and John McCauley of Deer Tick, as well as the evening's earlier performers Clark and Gordon, also tore it up with Nirvana's living bandmates during the afterparty concert.

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Beck takes on David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" with Nirvana's living members at a pre-Grammy party before the 2016 ceremony.

Grohl, Novoselic and Smear have created one-off supergroups in the past for Nirvana reunions, but this time, Beck was their esteemed fourth member. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter sang and played guitar for a string-section-backed cover of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" during Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party. Nirvana reignited the song's popularity when they delivered an acoustic rendition on MTV Unplugged in 1993.

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A mini-Nirvana reunion ensues at the Foo Fighters' Concrete and Gold Tour in Seattle in September 2017.

Seattle's Safeco Field is the most fitting venue for a Nirvana reunion, but this time around, Sir McCartney was not the one to initiate the celebration. When Novoselic's Northwest roots-rock band Giants in the Trees opened for Grohl's Foo Fighters, the two, alongside Smear, reconvened for a cover of The Vaselines' "Molly's Lips," which Nirvana frequently played live back in the day and was included on the Incestisides rarities compilation.

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Grohl and Smear bring out Novoselic again during their Eugene, Ore., stop of the Foo Fighters' Concrete and Gold Tour in December 2017.

Some Foo Fighters shows aren't complete without mini-Nirvana reunions, and Grohl and Smear made sure the Concrete and Gold Tour stop at Eugene's Matthew Knight Arena equally satisfied their dual fanbases. Novoselic came back on the bass for a live rendition of Foo Fighters' 1995 hit "Big Me" from the post-grunge band's self-titled debut album. 

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Joan Jett and John McCauley assist Nirvana's living members at Cal Jam 2018. 

Jett and McCauley are no strangers to performing as part of a Nirvana reunion, so their second go-round at the Foo Fighters-headlining Cal Jam '18 in San Bernardino, Calif., was a piece of cake. Jett covered lead vocals for the Billboard Hot 100 No. 6 hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Breed" and "All Apologies," while Deer Tick's dominating singer-songwriter took over for "Serve the Servants," "Scentless Apprentice" and "In Bloom." The six-song encore set closed out the night, and you can watch the performances here.

Grohl brings back Novoselic, Smear and other "friends" for Art of Elysium benefit in 2020.

When a nondescript "Dave Grohl & Friends" appeared on the performance bill for Saturday's Art of Elysium gala, Nirvana fans hoped for the best and were granted their wish when Novoselic and Smear were confirmed as the Foo Fighters frontman's guests. He also brought out Nirvana reunion show alums Beck and Clark of St. Vincent, as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Violet, who stole the show during the five-song set. Clark covered Cobain's vocals for the grunge rockers' song "Lithium," while Beck sang "In Bloom" (with a riveting guitar solo) and "Been a Son." He also reprised his role of covering Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" during the Nirvana reunion, with Clark this time, and the young Grohl delivered a mournful, moving rendition of "Heart-Shaped Box."

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