The original run of “MTV Unplugged” began way back in 1989 as a showcase for bands who wanted to show off their musicianship via the power of acoustic guitars. Though the initial batch of acts treated the show with a sort of hushed reverence, bands eventually cottoned onto the idea that you could still go a little crazy even though the volume was turned way down. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder hopped around the set during his band’s show-closing performance of “Porch,” LL Cool J got the normally sedate audience out of their seats and Nirvana played fast and loose with the crowd and their friends. On this day in 1996, Oasis recorded one of the strangest (and best) episodes in the show’s history.
By the time the summer of 1996 rolled around, Oasis had successfully made the transition from Britpop curiosity to full-on international sensation. Their second album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was a gigantic hit in this country, and both “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” had found their way into heavy rotation on radio and on MTV. It made sense that they would be drafted for an episode of “MTV Unplugged,” as they had a dynamic back catalog and were known for the ongoing feud between brothers and co-frontmen Liam and Noel Gallagher (a rivalry that often played out live in concert). But when it came time to sit down and play the songs, Liam begged off, citing a sore throat. That left Noel to handle all of the singing duties, and the result was probably one of the best shows the group ever played during their peak. Liam was still in the building, of course — he sat in a balcony and drank, smoked and heckled throughout the performance.
Oasis never quite got back to the heights of their ’90s peak, though their 21st century output should be considered underrated. “The Shock of the Lightning” — from the group’s 2008 album Dig Out Your Soul — should be considered Exhibit A.