Rolling Stone


10 Amazing Performances From MTV's 'Unplugged' To Celebrate Its Return

Rolling Stone

One of most memorable music shows of all time was MTV Unplugged. The show was a raw look at musicians as they laid everything bare for the audience. There was no makeup, no amp or DJ. The musicians had to rely purely on their skill and sound. It was a time when music was still real.

MTV is bringing the show back to your televisions in an effort to bring back this great music tradition. Here are 10 of the best unplugged concerts from the 90s.

1. Bon Jovi

While technically it wasn't a true episode of Unplugged, the show had yet to premiere. But when Bon Jovi rocked out acoustic versions of Livin' on a Prayer, and Wanted Dead or Alive at the 1989 Video Music Awards, he inspired the entire concept for the show.

2. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page

Somehow MTV convinced these two members of Led Zeppelin to reunite on stage for an unplugged concert. John Paul Jones was not invited to the show. The shot the show in multiple countries including England and Wales. They used a full string section for parts of the show, and their 1998 album Walking to Clarksdale followed this legendary show.

3. Nirvana

Likely the most iconic show to ever air on MTV Unplugged, Kurt Cobain and the rest of Nirvana played songs from In Utero in 1993. After Cobain's suicide, viewers went back and tried to gauge his mindset in the months leading up to his death based on this performance.

4. Bruce Springsteen

The Boss had a tendency to avoid televised performances for most of his career leading up to his appearance on MTV Unplugged. When the show aired, MTV executives had to cross out the word "unplugged" from the title because Springsteen had changed his mind part way through his performance and went back to playing his Telecaster guitar. Still, The Boss is The Boss and you really can't argue with that.

5. Alice In Chains

When Alice In Chains performed on Unplugged on April 10, 1996, it was their first public performance since the end of the their 1993 world tour. This performance led to the band's reunion and it turned out to be lead singer Layne Staley's final concert prior to his death in 2002.

6. The Eagles

It seems that a lot of bands decided to reunite on MTV Unplugged. When The Eagles took the stage in 1994, it was the first time they had performed as a group since 1980 when Glenn Frey and Don Felder almost came to blows during a concert. They played a few classics and even debuted some new material for the first time in decades.

7. Aerosmith

Unlike the vast majority of other bands who performed on Unplugged, Aerosmith didn't attempt to cash in on the show by releasing an album tied to it. They played several of their lesser known songs, and brought the audience back to a time when they were heavily influenced by blues.  

8. Neil Young

The proclaimed "Godfather of Grunge" surprised the audience when he changed direction and played selections from his album Havest Moon. He went back to the country-rock sounds that made him such a force during the early 1970s. Young even broke out a pump organ to play a few songs.

9. Kiss

Again, Unplugged spawned a reunion. When they performed on the show in 1995 Ace Frehley and Peter Criss joined Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on stage for the first time in 15 years. Afterwards, the band ended up going on a couple world tours, but the honeymoon was over again by 2004 when Frehley and Criss disappeared again.

10. Eric Clapton

The album that came out of Clapton's appearance on Unplugged went on to sell over 10 million copies, and won six Grammys, including the highly coveted Album of the Year. The audience was shocked to see Clapton (one of the greatest, if not the greatest, electric guitar players of all time) pick up an acoustic guitar to play renditions of Layla and Tears in Heaven.

What was your favorite performance on MTV's Unplugged?