Review Summary: A welcome addition to the casual fan's collection.
Imagine you are a member of one of the most renowned live acts in the world. Over the last ten years, your band has released nearly every one of your concerts as an official bootleg. Why then would you want to release a compilation of your shows from the last seven years? Surely, the only plausible reason for doing this is to appeal to the casual fan who may be a little daunted by the hundreds of bootlegs to choose from.
If this was Pearl Jam’s intention while tracking this album it makes it baffling that they chose to open the lp with a cover of late punk legend Joe Strummer’s “Arms Aloft”. Surely, it would have been more in their interest to open the set with a slow burner from their extensive back catalogue as they do live instead of a cover of an only half-decent song. As it is, the album only kicks off at the second track “Worldwide Suicide” from their 2006 self-titled album. The opener sounds out of place and I imagine will be skipped by most listeners on repeat listens.
Other than this, the album chugs along ably as a microcosm of an actual Pearl Jam gig. After the raucous opening songs the album heads into mid tempo territory with a cover before reaching the finale complete with classic sing-along’s “Alive” and “Jeremy” before finishing up with perennial set closer “Yellow Ledbetter”. The two pleasant surprises the album has in store for the listener are how well the new material from 2009’s “Backspacer” sits next to the classics and the muscular production, which is streets ahead of the quality of the official bootlegs. There are four cuts from the aforementioned Backspacer and each fits seamlessly into its designated place.
“Got Some” is the first newer song to feature and takes its place amongst the early upbeat tracks on the album, sandwiched between “Animal” and “State of Love and Trust.” It is unsurprisingly impossible for the song to overcome such illustrious company but the song holds its own bravely and does not let the side down. Near the beginning of the mid tempo section of the album lays “Unthought Known”, which actually succeeds in upstaging “I Am Mine” which precedes it. This is due to “Unthought Known’s” soaring melody and steady, tense build.
“The Fixer” follows soon after and with this being a great up-tempo pop rock song it has no problems brushing shoulders with “Rearviewmirror” and “Nothing as it Seems.” “Just Breathe” ends the mid-tempo section of the cd before the album heads into class, sing-along terrain. The song actually works as a delightful, low-key bridge between the two sections; the calm before the storm.
In spite of the odd choice of opener and the throw away cover of “Public Image”; the album achieves its goal of providing a mini Pearl Jam live experience for the casual fan. The album is hardly an essential for the hardcore Pearl Jam fan but would be a welcome addition to the casual fans collection.