MTV Unplugged is a series showcasing popular musical artists playing acoustic instruments. Formed from the idea that the bands would perform entirely without any electronic equipment (except their microphones), in a striped-down form of their work.
Perhaps the first widely publicized "unplugged" performance on MTV was during the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, featuring Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora performing "Wanted Dead or Alive." XTC had, however, preceded Bon Jovi in MTV Unplugged, performing in May of that year. Following the popularity of the Bon Jovi performance, MTV began the Unplugged series of concerts. Nirvana's performance on Unplugged (see MTV Unplugged in New York) is also of special note; it was one of the last televised performances by Kurt Cobain, recorded just a few months before his death. Nirvana's performance consisted mostly of little-known material from themselves, the Meat Puppets, and David Bowie. This is a contrast to other Unplugged concerts, where artists largely perform their own songs.
On August 9, 1995, hard rock legends KISS performed on MTV Unplugged in what fans consider a historical concert. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons contacted former members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and invited them to participate in the event. Fan reaction to Criss and Frehley at the Unplugged show was so positive that, in 1996, the original lineup of KISS reunited, with all four original members together for the first time since 1979. In 1996, another grunge legend Alice In Chains would give their last concert as a group on the show. Lead Singer Layne Staley was visibly in poor health from his heroin addiction (which eventually claimed his life) but gave an amazing performance along with the rest of the band.
In 2002, Lauryn Hill unveiled her feverishly-anticipated new material on an MTV Unplugged special. Fans had waited three long years for Hill's follow-up to the critical and commercial smash hit, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. What they got was a bizarre, stripped-down performance by Hill, who had cut off all of her hair. The minimalist songs were at best avant garde and at worst unlistenable. Hill's set consisted of her plucking an acoustic guitar, quietly singing, frequently interrupting songs with long, spoken word segments and occasionally breaking down in tears. Many fans left the show feeling puzzled as to what they had just witnessed. MTV revived the series when Alicia Keys' Unplugged special aired on MTV on September 23, 2005. It was the first 'Unplugged' for Alicia and the first for MTV in nearly three years. Special guests for the performance include Mos Def, Common, Damian Marley and Maroon 5's Adam Levine. The show was released on CD and DVD in October 2005.
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