MTV Unplugged (Live)

MTV Unplugged (Live)

“I remember being nervous,” Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard tells Apple Music of performing for MTV’s Unplugged in March 1992. Recorded just three days after they’d completed their first European tour—at midnight, immediately following tapings by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men—the all-acoustic set came at a formative moment for Pearl Jam: Far from being a household name, the Seattle outfit were on their initial ascent, figuring themselves out just as they were about to very quickly (and unexpectedly) become icons. When the set eventually aired in May of that year, it was both a revelation and an introduction. “We had played a lot,” Gossard recalls. “But we had played very little acoustically.” In stripping their songs down—nearly all of them pulled from the band’s 1991 debut, Ten—they took note of what made them so powerful: the melodic contours of “Oceans” and “Alive” (their only single at the time), the natural dynamism of “State of Love and Trust” and “Even Flow.” Most enlightening was the performance of frontman Eddie Vedder, who still found a way to captivate in the relative cold of a TV studio environment, without a crowd to surf or walls to climb. You can hear his voice unleashed here, free of expectations or Ten’s infamous reverb, jumping octaves on “Black” and erupting over time on “Porch.” Every emotion was laid bare, a rarity in stadium-ready rock. “We relied a lot on the noise and the wildness of our shows to generate energy,” Gossard says. “[Unplugged] showed that Ed could really be in that kind of a setting, and really, I'm sure we learned something about that, too. Now I'm always up for five or six acoustic songs somewhere in the middle of a set, because you just hear him in a way I find so pleasing.”

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