MTV Unplugged appeared in 1989’s fall and at the beginning was only meant to inspire all artists replace their electric instruments with acoustics. Due to unplugged TV shows performances, the show became very commercial and artistically viable and changed its mission by starting, after a few years, to promote artists’ latest songs, put musical hits in a new light and bring out some covers or remixes. The list of best Top 10 MTV unplugged performances brings together some of the best classic rockers, some of them performing together after a very long time.
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10. Alice in Chains – May 28, 1996
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On the 10th place for live unplugged performances ever, we find Alice in Chains, coming back after a stormy couple of years with their third album. After they ended their 1993 world tournament, their first appearance was on 10th of April 1996, besides opening a few shows for Kiss on their own reunion. Unfortunately, it has also been the last concert of Layne Staley until he died, in 2002.
9. The Eagles – 1994
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The Eagles have earned their place in the top 10 MTV unplugged performances due to their newest song “Hell Freezes Over”. This song was performed together for the first time after Don Felder and Glenn Frey almost got into a fight in the ‘80s on stage. A flamenco-tinged cover of “Hotel California” alongside their greatest hits and a few new songs were played. And the result was that the album sold a nine million copies.
8. Paul McCartney – April 3, 1991
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Number 8 in Top 10 unplugged TV shows performances we find Paul McCartney, after a year since his first world tournament after the Wings days. By this time the commercial potential of this MTV show was not yet fully explored, so the albums were only limited edition counting each sale. By the end of the decade, the covers of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “And I Love Her” and “Blackbird” mixes from Beatles made this album permanently issued. In addition, Paul McCartney managed to remind people of the brilliance of “Every Night”.
7. Rob Stewart
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Since the Faces broke up in 1975, the 5th of May, 1993 MTV unplugged performances was the first time that Rob Stewart and Ronnie Wood have performed together, making this episode special. The reason for which it is almost in the middle of our Top 10 live unplugged performances ever is the album “Unplugged…and Seated” that contains hits like “Reason to Believe”, Handbags and Gladrags” and “Have I Told You Lately”.
6. Neil Young – April 3, 1993
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Neil Young was crowned the “Godfather of Grunge”, but, despite that, took the either way with his “Harvest Moon”, revisiting the 1972’s “Harvest” leanings to country-rock. Although being familiarized with acoustic format, his performance wasn’t as high as hoped, so he discarded the show and came back a few months later bringing on the stage with him Nils Lofgren, Ben Keith and Tim Drummond for help. This was a huge success, mostly for adding to “Harvest Moon” covers like “Long May You Run”, “Pocahontas” and “Transformer Man” and a new version of “Like a Hurricane” where he used a pump organ and sounded like a cool mad scientist. The album helped him gain the fourth place of unplugged TV shows performances.
5. Nirvana – December 14, 1993
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Their performance on MTV Unplugged in 1993 was surprising since their obvious attempt to ear back their fame with “In Utero” after the unexpected success of “Nevermind” due to the volatile industry. Of course, Nirvana shocked as they only played one of their hits “Come as You Are”), having as a backup Meat Puppets – Cris and Curt Kirkwood and closing with “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” from Lead Belly. This is one of the reasons of being on the 5th place in unplugged TV shows performances. After Kurt Cobain has committed suicide, people were looking for clues in his last performances in order to find out his mindset from his last months of life.
4. Kiss – October 31, 1995
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In top 5 live unplugged performances ever it was only natural to find Kiss’s show from 1995. “Dazed and Confused” interpreted by Richard Linklater reminded the entire world of Kiss’s impact over an entire generation of teenagers in 1970. The new crew was still having a lot of success, but the show brought back the original band and old feelings came to the surface when Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss were reunited on stage for the first time since the ‘80s.
3. Bon Jovi
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Even though this was not a full episode, since the show was not even premiered, Bon Jovi is only natural to take a spot amongst the greatest live unplugged performances ever with his interpretation of “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” alongside Richie Sambora at 1989 VMA. Actually, this performance has inspired the series, in 2007 Bon Jovi came back to promote his “Lost Highway” album.
2. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – October 14, 1994
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The second best MTV unplugged performances comes from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Although this wasn’t a veritable Led Zeppelin reunion since Josh Paul Jones was not asked, it was their best duet since they broke up and singed together afterwards. This lead to a tour and the album “Walking to Clarksdale” in 1998.
1. Eric Clapton – March 11, 1992
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The best unplugged TV shows performances was 1992’s performance of Eric Clapton. Apart from the shock that one of the electric guitar heroes of rock traded his instrument for an acoustic he demonstrated what can “Unplugged” do and has not been defeated since then. The album containing covers after “Tears in Heaven” and “Layla” won the prize for Album of the Year, Six Grammys and sold over 10 million copies.
To sum up, this music TV show started as a challenge for all artists despite their music gender. They were provoked to leave and trade their electric instruments for acoustics and the results were amazing in nearly all cases. These artists have gained their place in the TOP 10 MTV unplugged performances due to their great performances and surprising duets. Over the years, MTV unplugged has become one of the most popular shows.