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7 Great Acoustic or Unplugged Live Male Vocal Performances

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Lyn grew up in a musical household and has a passion for popular music genres. Lyn has also studied Music at University in Britain.

The best unplugged tracks by male vocalists

The best unplugged tracks by male vocalists

The Best Acoustic Live Performances

This is a deliberately eclectic collection of some great live acoustic recordings to enjoy. Each video has been handpicked due to the high quality and the startling difference to the artist's acoustic version in contrast to the originally released recording.

For the less known artists, a brief resume is included. However, most of these will be known, if only a little to most people. Furthermore, with the exception of the Ed Sheeran inclusion, all the acts are not known for this type of arrangement. Having found the Sheeran contribution, it was too good to leave out.

As he gets older, Clapton is perhaps steering more to the mellow style of acoustic and this is also a contemporary phenomenon. Gilmour, too, seems to be mellowing with age, but then Pink Floyd always was a laid-back crew. The difference now is in the delivery and the production.

Acoustic versions of famous songs don't always work. Different arrangements are sometimes just that different, sometimes better than the original, and sometimes an updated acoustic set serves to remind the listener how good the original recordings were. One thing is for sure; there is nowhere to hide in an acoustic live performance.

1. Nirvana: "All Apologies"

I make no apologies for starting with this great video of Nirvana creating atmosphere during an unplugged set. Although when we think of acoustic, we tend to think of guitars or strings, here the drums are included, and Dave Grohl's drumming is so good on this recording being right on point, somehow mellow and expressive, and the drums seriously lend something to the overall experience.

Nirvana was a highly influential American rock band that formed in 1987 and is slotted into the sub-genres of grunge and alternative rock. Led by co-founder Kurt Cobain, this is a particularly good version of "All Apologies" from the band.

Sadly, Cobain is no longer with us, and the band no longer performs, although their influence lives on. This video is taken from the unplugged show in New York that MTV aired in 1993.

The main members of Nirvana were Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain, and Dave Grohl (Nirvana website).

2. The Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Under the Bridge"

This clip I found on YouTube is taken from a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert in 2005 and is particularly poignant due to lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ speech before the start of the track.

It is the mark of a good rock band when they can give such a brilliant performance as this acoustically without the back-up of the big sound and amplifiers.

The original version of this track is from the 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (discogs). An album according to Chris Blyth is 'frequently heralded as one of the defining albums of the 90s and one which far exceeds anything else the band have ever produced.' (Blyth, 2008).

MacArthur Park

The bridge that inspired Red Hot Chili Peppers' classic hit "Under the Bridge" is located in Los Angeles' MacArthur Park.

— Vulture reports, Rolling Stone

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3. Eric Clapton: "Layla"

Eric Clapton Vevo brought us this lovely mellow version of the Derek and the Dominoes song "Layla" that Clapton wrote together with Jim Gordon; the original version has a real '60's feel to it, not surprising really as the song was recorded in 1970 and was released in 1971, giving us one of the most famous guitar riffs of all time. This video is particularly useful for guitar students showing close-ups of Clapton's hands as he plays the slower acoustic arrangement of this famous song.

Clapton has brought the old classic song up to date with his contemporary arrangement.

"What'll you do when you get lonely

and nobody's waiting by your side?

You've been running and hiding much too long

You know it's just your foolish pride"

— Clapton/Gordon

4. Bon Jovi: "Livin' on a Prayer"

Formed in New Jersey, Bon Jovi is a highly internationally successful American rock band from New Jersey. In this unplugged version, Jon Bon Jovi is with his old guitarist Richie Sambora and a string orchestra, and this is another new arrangement that brings an old rock song to a new generation with a gentler contemporary delivery. Sambora’s backing vocal is terrific here and compliments Bon Jovi’s vocal perfectly and also gives a slight country feel to the track at times.

5. Darius Rucker: "Let Her Cry"

This is a high-quality acoustic version of the American singer-songwriter Darius Rucker performing his song "Let Her Cry." I fully expected the audience to clap and cheer when he introduced the track, but they were silent. "Let Her Cry" was the second single release from the album Hootie and Blowfish Cracked Rear View. This is a high sound quality live recording despite the lack of audience atmosphere.

Rucker was the lead singer and rhythm guitar player with pop-rock band Hootie and Blowfish gaining multi-platinum status, and Rucker made a solo R&B album in 2002. In 2008 he signed to a country music label and the rest, they say, is history.

Darius Rucker was the first black American to win the New Artist of the Year award from the Country Music Association. Rucker has a generous, likable character and is a frequent performer at benefit concerts.

6. Ed Sheeran: "Shape of You"

Filmed whilst at Capital Radio’s studio, this is Ed and his guitar performing his hit Shape of You.

Ed Sheeran is an English singer-songwriter who first came to international fame with his second album X in 2014, although keen music fans may remember him from his breakthrough appearance at The famous Glastonbury Festival in 2011 and his first album + of the same year.

"Shape of You" is from Sheeran's third album called simply "÷" (Divide), following on from the mathematical theme of his previous two albums called + and x.

Sheeran is becoming an unstoppable phenomenon. His talent is in writing simple, catchy pop songs that are wide-ranging in their appeal due to the likable delivery of many of them. Sheeran comes across as an unassuming and likable young Englishman. There is something magical when this geeky-looking Brit picks up his guitar and begins to sing. You cannot help but smile at this delivery of "Shape of You" or hum along to his hit "Galway Girl."

7. David Gilmour: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"

Whilst this is a live recording of an acoustic version of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" by David Gilmour, Gilmour does use a backing track, but this serves to add atmosphere and does not take away from the live acoustic guitar experience. It is not a full backing track, just some sound effects and echo, generally, this is a single guitar performance. Once the vocal starts, there is a hint of Bob Dylan about the arrangement, and this is a very different version from the Pink Floyd studio version.

Towards the last quarter, a saxophonist Dick Parry comes on (also unplugged), and it is the haunting saxophone that plays us out. Brilliantly amazing.

"Shine on You Crazy Diamond" is from the 1975 Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here.

Gilmour co-wrote the track with fellow band members Rogers and Wright, and it is known to be a homage to previous band member and influential musician Syd Barrett.

Enjoy These Unplugged Tracks

The trend for acoustic sets and new stripped-back arrangements of old songs together with a stronger presence of less is more style artistry, such as Sheeran, is an exciting one. I hope you have enjoyed these special versions of some famous tracks by the original artists.


Blyth Chris, (2008), BBC at

© 2017 Lyn

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