MTV Unplugged's 10 Strangest Moments
Those of you fond of criticizing the lack of music on MTV, take note: The network's venerable Unplugged series returns on Sunday with a performance by British indie-poppers Florence and the Machine. It'll be the first of eight shows planned for this year, with The Civil Wars and Dierks Bentley already on tap to record episodes.
Plugs are tricky, sometimes.
Unplugged has been responsible for some terrific, intimate performances from a wide range of performers over the past 20 years, from Nirvana to Shakira. It'll be good to have it back for another round. Craig Hlavaty wrote about some of the show's best moments last year.
It hasn't all been great, though. Credit MTV for taking a few risks, I guess, because Unplugged has a tendency to get weird. Will Sunday's episode veer into the surreal? We'll be watching to find out. In the meantime, enjoy ten of the head-scratchingest moments from the show's brilliant-but-spotty run.
10. Springsteen Plugs In: Bruce Springsteen is money with an acoustic guitar in his hands. That's exactly what fans were expecting to hear in 1992 when the Boss signed on for Unplugged, but what they got was an intense, fully electrified Springsteen concert.
It's a pretty fundamental disconnect, really. Whether the show's format wasn't explained to him too well or he just wanted to show off the amplified oomph of his Human Touch-era backing band, Bruce didn't deliver on the promise of a spare, intimate performance of folky story-songs that many were hoping for. Oh well. The set was later released as a live album, In Concert/MTV Plugged.
9. Maxwell Gets Closer to God: Cover songs are a bit of an Unplugged tradition. Nirvana, for example, turned in classic covers of tunes like "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Lake of Fire" during their appearance on the show, so it wasn't unexpected that neo-soul star Maxwell might slip a couple into his 1997 set, too.
What did come as a surprise was that he'd choose to cover "Closer," the raunchy, industrial Nine Inch Nails hit featuring the refrain, "I want to fuck you like an animal." It could have been a lot more hilarious than it was, but somehow, Maxwell pulled it off pretty well. His band was definitely cookin,' almost certainly introducing more soul fans to the music of Trent Reznor than anyone before or since.
8. Liam Takes the Piss: Oasis was a pretty obvious choice for Unplugged in 1996. The group's latest album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was a massive hit that promised to translate beautifully to the show's acoustic format. It was a highly anticipated, can't-miss performance all set up to be the season's highlight.
Maybe that was a little too safe for singer Liam Gallagher. Or maybe his throat really did hurt. Whatever the reason, Liam pulled out of the performance at the last second, leaving brother Noel to perform the vocals. Fortunately, he was more than up to it. The session turned out great. According to most, anyway -- Liam, treating his "sore throat" by smoking and drinking in the balcony, heckled his bandmates mercilessly between songs.