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MTV Unplugged

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★★★★½
(54 Reviews)

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  • I guess it was inevitable; KISS (like seemingly every other group who has ever recorded an album) HAD to do an Unplugged special on MTV. Most of the Unplugged shows are run-of-the-mill at best, but KISS really did something special. Not only did they bring back Ace Frehley and Peter Criss as a surprise to play on stage (which they hadn’t done together since 1980), put KISS played some obscure songs from the “vaults”, some of which they had never even played live. This is what made Nirvana’s outing so good! To me, this is what should happen on these Unplugged specials; have a few surprises and play some of the rare stuff or rework the hits–don’t just play the same song the same bloody way (did you hear that Mariah Carey)! KISS’ musicianship really shines here. The intimate, acoustic setting allows the instrumentation and vocals to take center stage, rather than the theatrics. KISS is a tight band, especially the rhythm section of Eric and Gene. Bruce and Ace (and even Paul) tear up the acoustic guitars, especially on 2,000 Man, Rock Bottom, Domino and Plaster Caster. Paul still has the pipes as he shows us on I Still Love You. Gene’s rasp has gotten worse over the last few years but it is giving his voice a distinctive sound; sure, he can’t hit the high notes anymore but Domino has a real sleaziness to it due to Gene’s voice. Yet at the same time, Gene can still make those quieter songs like A World Without Heroes and See You Tonight sound great. And this version of Goin’ Blind damn near beats the original! I’ve always felt that Gene could succeed as a singer rather than the growling demon who rips out songs like Calling Dr. Love and the like. It was nice to see such rarities as Comin’ Home, See You Tonight, and Rock Bottom come out here. To be honest, I’d never even really noticed Comin’ Home from Hotter Than Hell but after returning to it, I was awakened to its possibilities. See You Tonight has always been one of my favorite Gene songs, and Roc! k Bottom has all the energy of the original. I really like these versions of Goin’ Blind, I Still Love You, 2,000 Man, and Nothin’ To Lose. In fact, Nothin’ To Lose is probably my favorite cut on the album. Having the “old” KISS and the “new” KISS play together was a great idea and Peter’s singing again adds something extra to the song. Every Time I Look At You, though good to begin with, is accentuated even more with the string section. I can’t say too many bad things about KISS: MTV Unplugged. I really enjoyed it as it offers some fresh takes on old songs and some that are not available except on the original albums. It would have been nice to have Ace and Peter play throughout the set rather than just the last 4 songs, but I guess having them there at all was cool enough, despite all the crap that went down since they split. I have to wonder though if Bruce and Eric knew that their days were numbered at this point. It was a classy touch to keep them on stage when Ace and Peter came out but even they had to know what the fans wanted. What a feeling though playing with the original KISS! If you ever get the chance to see the home video version of KISS: MTV Unplugged, watch it because you can’t believe how happy Peter Criss looks on stage; it’s as if he had a smile tattooed on his face! I guess failing as a solo artist and virtually disappearing from the music scene for 15 years may have had something to do with it. The chemistry is there between Ace, Gene, Paul, and Peter for the first time in a long time and it really shows. After 15 years, the band finally gave the fans what they wanted: a KISS reunion show. But greater things were still to come…

    Posted on February 11, 2010