Top 5 Best MTV Unplugged Performances

mtv-unplugged-logoSince we’re playing our first-ever acoustic show, it seemed fitting to list the best performances from MTV’s Unplugged show.

The show first aired in November, 1989, and had regular episodes through 1997. While they produced only a handful of shows after that, they seem to be doing more lately.

The concept was so popular, and performances so good, that many of the shows have been released as their own albums, and countless artists have performed and released their own “unplugged” shows.

Here are some of the most notable, although there are many others that have been great.

5. LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”

How was a rap artist going to follow some of the biggest names in rock and guitar with an acoustic show? “Mama Said Knock You Out” in particular is based on samples from Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown.

LL Cool J had a full acoustic band doing a great arrangement of the song, and showed that not only could he pull it off, but that an acoustic show didn’t have to be a less energetic performance.

4. Alice in Chains

This is a really cool, subdued performance of rock songs with great vocal harmonies. It’s one of the best-selling of the Unplugged shows that have been released as an album.

It was the band’s first concert in two and a half years, and was also one of their last with Layne Staley.

3. Aerosmith

This is a great acoustic performance of timeless rock songs. The set list is great, too, with a few lesser-played songs from their catalog, including Seasons of Wither and One Way Street, as well as some cool covers like Love Me Two Times and Smokestack Lightning.

Unfortunately there is not much of the show on YouTube, but it was released as an album.

In this short video, the performance starts at :25

2. Eric Clapton

While “Tears in Heaven” has been overplayed so much that many people hate it at this point, the fact is that it was a brilliant arrangement of a great song.

The entire show was the same, showcasing songs ranging from 1930s solo guitar blues, to 70s rock, to 90s pop rock.

The album release of the show has sold 10 million copies.

1. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Not only did he get up to play solo, with just a guitar and voice, but he was playing a jumbo 12-string.

Stevie starts the show with two songs, and comes back at 15:10.

Your Favorites?

What are some of your favorite Unplugged performances?