5 of the Best ‘MTV Unplugged’ Performances from Rock Stars

MTV Unplugged has produced some of the most unforgettable performances in recent music history. Since its inception in 1989, fans have been delighted by seeing some of their favorite artists strip their songs down to the basics.

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It’s a particularly jarring experience for rock artists, who typically live in the anthemic, up-tempo world. Unplugged provided rock stars with the unique experience of being able to slow down and try acoustic elements on for size.

Below, are five of the best MTV Unplugged sessions from rock stars. Do you remember these iconic performances?

1. R.E.M. (1991)

R.E.M.’s first appearance on Unplugged in 1991 was so stellar that they were brought back for a second show a decade later. For our purposes, we’re going to look at their 1991 concert, which is undoubtedly the standout.

Michael Stipe’s vocals ring out over the venue on “Losing My Religion.” There is no mistaking the power of that song when the lyrics are allowed room to breathe. Elsewhere in the set, they deliver an equally show-stopping rendition of “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.”

2. Neil Young (1993)

Neil Young’s history with MTV Unplugged started off a little rocky. He was slated to perform on the series in 1992, but the performance was cut short by Young who grew frustrated with the process and promptly left the studio.

Young gave Unplugged another shot in 1993. His second go-around proved to be one of his most memorable performances in years.

3. Paul McCartney (1991)

Paul McCartney’s performance on the MTV Unplugged stage helped to put the series on the map. The former Beatle played through some of the group’s biggest hits as well as some deep-cut solo material. McCartney’s songwriting is strong enough to stand tall without any flashy production, so why not strip these songs down to their bare bones?

Plus, if you want to get more eyes on a burgeoning project, bringing a Beatle into the mix isn’t a bad place to start.

4. Eric Clapton (1992)

Eric Clapton secured the best-selling live album of all time with his MTV Unplugged session. The album, Unplugged, features one of the most emotive performances in Clapton’s career, a live rendition of “Tears In Heaven.”

The performance came just months after the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son – the inspiration for the song. A still grieving Clapton tapped into something almost otherworldly in this performance.

5. Nirvana (1993)

Perhaps the most famous MTV Unplugged session comes from Nirvana. The stripped-back performance allowed Kurt Cobain’s powerful lyricism to come out from behind the onslaught of sound their recordings serve up.

The performance came just a few months before Cobain’s death in 1994. Though the fans may not have known it at the time, they were watching one of Nirvana’s final farewells. It was an eerie, foreboding sort of goodbye that only Cobain could summon up.

(Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

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