Review Summary: Pearl Jam shows off 20 years of a fantastic career, releasing a mixed bag of live performances, instrumentals and demos that should satisfy the devoted fan.
Pearl Jam are a very giving band. In 2011 alone, they put out Live On Ten Legs
, a re-issue of Vs, Vitalogy
and a live concert in Boston from 1994. They also came out with a documentary, highlighting their 20 plus years and that soundtrack here shows off their long-spanning but at times, rocky career. Perhaps, they were taken aback that many fans thought Backspacer
too short and are making up for it. Whatever the case may be, there's something here in this mixed bag for all Pearl Jam fans to enjoy.
It's important to remember that this two-disc collection is a soundtrack, so it can be a bit disorganized at times and the casual listener may be caught off guard when the songs jump around in production value, whether it was recorded by a variety of microphones or in a pre-Ten
era, perhaps one guy holding a tape recorder in the air. Disc One seems to be more linear, at least in respect to when the songs were first written. It also happens to be their mostly "live" disc. It starts out with the appropriate slow-burner "Release," showing that time has improved this massive song and gives it the emotion that Ten never seemed to give. Blasphemy that might be, but Pearl Jam has, for the most part, shown that they can bring vibrant new energy to songs on the stage. This 2006 performance is followed by a pre-Ten
live version of "Alive" and Ten-era performances of "Garden" and the bass-and-drum attack of "Why Go." Their performance of "Black" on MTV's Unplugged
is pretty straightforward, although Eddie adds a bit of, dare I say, funk and soul for the second verse.
For the Vs.
era, there's the viciousness and taste-of-blood international performances of "Blood," "Last Exit" and the big-business-and-fans-alike-***-you "Not For You." Eddie's growls and the band's ever-growing tightness in their rhythm keeps these songs strong and heavy, which for years afterwards, songs such as these would be few and far between, as Pearl Jam would continue to explore their own musical creativity. The rest of the songs on Disc One are fine, but it's a "cover" of Mother Love Bone's "Crown of Thorns" that takes the cake. Simple chord progressions, the addition of keyboards, Eddie's vocals mixing melody and growls together and McCready's goosebump-inducing solo bring back to life a fan favorite of a band that was just about to make it big. With it's slow build-up to the first verse, it's fun to hear the audience slowly recognize it and Pearl Jam goes on to make Andy Wood's words into a stadium rocker, as he would have wanted.
Disc Two is a bit more disorganized and aimed more at the more devoted (insane) fan. It hops around sporadically from demos, instrumentals, live performances and just-messing-around. Two versions of "Nothing As It Seems," one sung by Ament, seems unnecessary. "Need to Know" seems to be a (very) early version of "The Fixer," with Matt Cameron on vocals, and is overall, skippable. It's fun to hear them messing around with an Alice In Chains song in their early days and their live performance of "Bu$hLeaguer" with a mixed but plentiful energy from the crowd, and McCready's country-style guitar leads brings this song up from straightforward mediocrity. The booing that supposedly was overwhelming present in that performance seems to be nonexistent amongst an energetic (but restless) crowd. The best parts of Disc Two are for starters, the instrumentals. Hearing "Of The Girl," a favorite opener for their 2000 world tour, "Given To Fly," the magnificent "Times of Trouble" and the breath-taking "Be Like Wind." Live performances of personal favorite "Faithfull" (a practice run), and the audience singing along, hanging on to every word of "Indifference" and "Better Man" show why Pearl Jam has such a faithful (ahem) fan base.
This is a good collection for 20 years. However, for those fans who dare not enter the massive world of Pearl Jam bootlegs, a third disc would have been welcome by devoted (psychotic) fans that could have included some live rarities, such as "Whipping," "Satan's Bed," "Unemployable," "Alone" and so on. In regards to what is
there, nothing from Pearl Jam
shows up and even Backspacer
makes a limited appearance. Still, these 20 years have been good to Pearl Jam and fans all around all have their own desired wishlist (ahem) for live performances. They have gone from dour shoe-gazers to having quite a good time. And for a band originally marked as "alternative" and "grunge," that's progress.
Recommendations: Disc One - Release, Why Go, Blood, Not For You, Crown of Thorns
Disc Two - Of The Girl, Times of Trouble, Be Like Wind, Better Man, Indifference