Since this was my Best Album Of 2020, it makes sense I ought to review it here, eh?
I love Pearl Jam, and any new studio record (this is their 11th) is an instant purchase for me. I haven’t kept up with all the live stuff (who could?) but an album of new songs, seven years after the last record? Hell yeah.
Sure, it ‘sounds like Pearl Jam,’ so if you’re dismissive of them at all, or not a fan, nothing here will excite you (probably), but if you’ve read this far into this post you’re not that silly person anyway. You’re here for the meat on the bone, and there’s a (giga)ton of it on this record.
Experience has made them masters of their sound, and Pearl Jam craft yet another vital record of hard-hitting, thoughtful, excellent songs. Better, they’re growing, changing, becoming… something their detractors won’t take the time to recognize. New sounds, instruments, different looks meld well with their template. Nothing stale here, and all three of their main song styles are here – hard rockers that edge towards punk, mid-tempo rockers that radio should never stop playing, and sweet slower tracks that pull you in and hold you close. There are moments that make you want to break stuff as you thrash around, others that’ll unite the crowd (if concerts can ever happen again), and there are times when it feels like they’re playing just for you, and you want to protect that precious moment at all costs.
Of course, Eddie’s lyrics are contemporary, taking on the recently-former President of the US and other issues, but there’s something else here too… of course, it’s an honest, overall sense and reflection of our society’s general unrest/malaise/simmering violence/fear stew. With a finger on the pulse, Pearl Jam sends us a wake-up call. Again.
Turns out, this was the album we all needed in one hell of a shitty year.
We all know, 2020 has sucked all kinds of ways. I haven’t worked since March, so disposable income isn’t really what it might have been before. I haven’t bought a whole lot of music this year, and I’ve been very selective in my purchases.
Aaron’s Best Album Of 2020:
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
This was what I needed this year (though I’ve not yet reviewed it here, oddly). It’s angry, it’s thoughtful, and it’s of this year… I’m sure that makes sense. Pearl Jam has been there for a long time, for me, and this is their first new studio album in seven years, so it’s exciting.
When they comment on current events in their songs, it’s with purpose and smarts and clarity. They get angry, but they never totally lose hope. Also, they continually grow and change as a band while remaining fundamentally themselves, trying new things within the framework of their sound.
It’s the album I (we) needed to hear this year, and it’s damn near perfect.
Of course, I bought a few other things this year, and I was gifted (recently) more, so here’s a list of other 2020 stuff I have here. I have greatly enjoyed them all!
Gord Downie – Away Is Mine 2CD
Guided By Voices – Surrender Your Poppy Field
Guided By Voices – Mirrored Aztec
Guided By Voices – Styles We Paid For (still hasn’t arrived yet but it’s en route)
Metallica – S&M 2 (2CD/DVD)
Sloan – B-Sides Win Vol. 1 1992-1997
I Was Gifted With:
B.A. Johnston w. The Burning Hell – split 7”
Hawksley Workman – Less Rage More Tears LP (signed!)
Manipulant – Almost Elegant
Mastodon – Medium Rarities
Tom Petty – Wildflowers And All The Rest 4CD
Previous Years’ Winners:
2019 Tool – Fear Innoculum
2018 Sloan – 12
2017 Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls: Live Chapter (Deluxe Edition)
2016 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker / Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct (tie)
2015 Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls
2014 Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems / Sloan – Commonwealth (tie)
2013 Black Sabbath – 13
2012 Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
2011 Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton – Play The Blues: Live From Jazz At The Lincoln Center
2010 Jack Johnson – To The Sea
2009 Leonard Cohen – Live In London
2008 Metallica – Death Magnetic
2007 Carolyn Mark – Nothing Is Free / Immaculate Machine – Fables (tie)
2006 Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It
Happy New Year, everybody. Here’s to a better year in 2021 for all!
Mike gave me this Pearl Jam single, and it’s great. Looks to me like it’s the Canadian release, two songs and both of them are keepers.
The title track, of course, is one you probably already know well. It’s an uplifting tune about being strong within yourself, no matter what the world throws at you. I do always chuckle, though, when Eddie tries out his poetry and some of the silly stuff slips into the final version. “North is to south what the clock is to time…” Ummm…WHAT?! It sounds impressive, and it makes a nice rhyme, but I’m sorry buddy, to me that doesn’t make any sense…
The second track, Down, was (at the time) a previously unreleased track and I loved it immediately. How it did not make it into the final playlist on the album, I’ll never know. Shoulda been there. Why don’t they ask me these things? Just a great bounce-along song. Love it. I taught myself how o play it on the guitar not long after first hearing it. Fun times.
Both of these songs feature excellent guitar solos from Mr. McCready, as well.
Thanks heaps, Mike!!
But wait, you say. How are you writing with such familiarity about this single? Well.
I own a 4-song Australian version of the same single. And there’s a story about how I got it… of course there is…
We were in Calgary on holiday around the time of this stuff being released, and I saw this AUS version in an HMV there. I left it, thinking I could just get it at home later on. Haha, nope! So, back home in Saskatoon (where we were living at the time), I also tried online to find it, with no success. So I phoned over to the Calgary HMV and they still had it! They shipped it to my local HMV. A lot of time and natural resources were used in my getting this CD. I don’t mind because I am special.
And what’s different about this version? It contains the two songs (same as above), and two others. First is Bu$hleaguer, the album track only. This is the one where Eddie would wear a Dubya mask on-stage. Haha, politics Pearl Jam-style. And the last track is Undone, another previously unreleased track. It’s a peppy pop rocker, maybe a bit middle-of-the-road (a bit easier, perhaps, to see how it got left off the album) but I still really liked it.
All of these solid unreleased songs made me realize that this band must have a helluva time trying to finalize a track list for a record. With such an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, it has to be tough.
You don’t need to rush out and try to find either version of these singles if you want the unreleased songs. Both appeared later on the Lost Dogs compilation, so just grab that (as if you haven’t already!). You’ll get these two tracks and 2 whole CDs of other superb stuff, besides.
In either version, this is a great single. Thanks, Mike!!
NB. You may be wondering why I would want or keep this version Mike gave me when I already have the songs, in single form, on another CD. Well, my friend, I am a Pearl Jam fan. It’s a different release and therefore worthy of a place in my collection! Collectors will understand.
Another awesome Christmas 2013 gift, this 2CD soundtrack for the documentary of the same name, this is one helluva great set of unreleased material. What a gift to fans! I will assume, in writing this up, that you’ve seen the film. If you haven’t, go now and get you some!
Disc one is all live versions, from all over the world and from widely varying years in their career, early days to recent. Lots of highlights, of course, including Black from the MTV Unplugged, a beautiful Thumbing My Way (love that song), and then, well, the last 4 tracks of the CD… there’s Crown Of Thorns, and then a fan club only Christmas tune, and on and on. If this had been released as a one CD set, it’d still be totally worth it.
Disc two kicks off with 8 demo versions, lots of titles you don’t know here, even Matt Cameron singing. But then there’s a great acoustic guitar demo of Given To Fly by Mike McCready, and Jeff Ament’s demo of Nothing As It Seems. And then another whole whack of live tracks, same varied approach as disc one. And, oddly, an instrumental of Of The Girl in the middle of those! Also, shame that, on the back of the packaging, a live version of Bugs seems to have been deleted from between Betterman and Rearviewmirror. Ah well.
I wonder at sticking the demos into the middle of this collection. I might have put them up front, on disc 1, as they seem to be the meat of the project. It’s not as if we’re lacking for opportunities to hear live recordings of Pearl Jam… great as these are, the demos stand out more. I’d also have packed the instrumental of Of The Girl with the demos instead of breaking up the flow of the live tracks. Still, who cares, in the end? Me, apparently.
Nobody ever asks me when they get ’round to making sets like this. They should, of course, but they never do.
Pearl Jam is back!! And how!
I picked up this latest offering, their first since Backspacer in 2009, as quickly as I could. I somehow missed being a first day buyer, which is inexcusable with the mall two blocks from my house. And then the very next day I tore up my foot playing basketball, so there went a few more days. But get the record I did, and it is so very, very good. Not that we ever really doubted it would be, right? But damn, the boys are firing on all pistons with this one!
Getaway opens up with exciting promise. I can hear this one being (actually, the entire album will be) awesome in a live setting, the whole house jumping and singing along. Its lyrics remind us that the world can be ok, no matter how weird it gets. The first single, Mind Your Manners, is an absolute bomb going off. You’ve heard it, surely, I don’t need to further describe it. My Father’s Son doesn’t let up from the gas pedal at all, the band barrelling full speed ahead. And once again, as all along since Alive, Eddie deals with his Dad, even after his death.
Sirens finally slows things down a bit, and brilliantly so. Eddie really outdoes himself here, and when everything builds, and McCready’s solo… damn! Just a perfect track. I would not be at all surprised if it’s the next single. Lightning Bolt builds and then kicks things in the ass again. The howled chorus is awesome, and the guitars reach primal levels before levelling off (momentarily). Infallible has a great groove, a swing to it, but no less emotion than anything else here. By its resolution it is really soaring.
And then we hit Pendulum, which is so tense, bleak, even. Almost like Pearl Jam recorded a radiohead track! And that’s not a bad thing at all. I love that, after all of these years, the band still brings everything forward, every creative avenue is pursued, and things you would not expect get embraced. And even, in that, it still sounds like them. This is another reason to love this band.
Swallowed Whole’s acoustic intro eventually morphs into a big arena anthem. Hell, I could hear U2 playing those chords, this one is aimed at being and sounding big, another swell that just keeps building. Let The Records Play is just an awesome fist-pumping track. Bluesy, dirty guitars, pounding drums… Let the records play, indeed!
Sleeping By Myself is a pretty acoustic number, very much closer to the ukulele work Eddie has done solo. I was expecting a track like this, and I’m so glad it was such a good one (as if it wasn’t gonna be). Yellow Moon follows, slowing things down even a bit more. Another great performance from Eddie and, in truth, the whole band. To go from balls-out punk/metal rock to this, in the space of a few tracks, is incredible. There’s nothing this band cannot do, one would wager. Future Days closes things out, with a piano intro blending into acoustic guitar. This is a fully positive track, a beautiful final reminder that no matter what pisses them (and all of us) off about this world and the way it is going, there is still hope. Lyrically, it’s a good bookend to the first track.
Thank you, Pearl Jam. It’s been 5 years since your last album, and this was exactly what we needed, we couldn’t have wished for better. Perfection.
It’s a fair question to ask just how many live Pearl Jam albums a person needs. With the multiple bootleg series alone, and all their other live discs and the Gorge box set and the live disc in the recent re-release of v.s/Vitalogy and… you see how someone could at least wonder if another live disc was necessary. Especially when these songs are culled from seven years’ worth of shows, not one complete show (same approach as Live On Two Legs).
So, why did I buy this disc? The best reason: I’m a fan. Always will be. I see new PJ and something makes my arm shoot out at the rack and grab the disc and take it to the cashier. Long conditioning, I suppose. Plus, I know it’ll be quality. There’s a reason this band survived the death of grunge. They are a solid, kick-ass live act. These discs prove it, again and again.
Out of the gate with a cover of Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ Arms Aloft, straight into a peppy World Wide Suicide and then, without a breath, into an Animal that survives its increased speed with aplomb. Nice crowd sing-alongs. A quick shout to the crowd and straight into a blistering Got Some (Cameron really blasts the kit, in this one), it’s clear that the band is not going to take their foot off the gas any time soon, as jumping straight into State Of Love And Trust proves.
Shift gears a bit for I Am Mine, Unthought Known and then ramp it back up for rearviewmirror and The Fixer. Then, Nothing As It Seems beautifully brings things in a bit. But why the heck were people clapping along? Is this a clap-along song? I wouldn’t have thought so. Kind of wrecks it for me. Anyway. In Hiding makes it all better. What a song. The finger-picking on Just Breathe is great, and Jeremy sets the house on fire. It really speeds up by the end with the crowd blissfully howling along.
Next up is PiL’s Public Image, where Eddie really lets his vocals go with it, doing his level best to channel Lydon. Keep it up for a ripping Spin The Black Circle and a blistering Porch (whew!), before settling into the concert staples of Alive and McCready’s Hendrix homage, Yellow Ledbetter.
These recordings are crisp and clear, the band is ALWAYS at its peak, and like every Pearl Jam live record, this disc makes you wish you had been there at each show. Part of the magic is being a part of that crowd, feeling the energy and feeding it with your own.
Did I like it? Oh yes. Will I play it again? Sure. Should you buy it? Of course you should!
UPDATE: My buddy Mike made a good point, which was that if all of these tracks have been recorded over the past seven years, wouldn’t they all have been released already in the bootleg series? He’s right, of course, so long as they recorded and released every single show, as they did with the first bootleg series. In my memory, the following series saw two or three releases commercially, and the rest were sold through their web site. So maybe it’s a case where the diehards who bought everything have these tracks already, but the rest of us don’t. This is nitpicking, but it’s a fair point. Good on ya, Mike.
After all these years, I still feel that giddy sense of occasion whenever Pearl Jam releases a new record. This one rules. Each track is focused, unapologetic and fully alive, as though they’ve finally rediscovered their joy at the sheer fun of just being in a band. Soaring and tender in all the right places, this is also stunning, mature work. Damn, this band is tight.
We have been fortunate to grow along with Pearl Jam as they’ve continually made a career’s-worth of consistent, solid and entirely excellent records. Backspacer is definitely no exception. Independence suits them. Turn it UP!
PS With my two free concert downloads (included with the record), I chose Halifax, NS (09-22-05) and Santiago, Chile (11-22-05). And I downloaded the two free live tracks (Immortality and Last Exit) from the bonus card HMV gave me too. Sweet!
Calexico – A Feast Of Wire
hot clear southern nights
majestic shuffle waltz sound
last call came and went
Blitzen Trapper – Furr
whipsmart folk rock tunes
Beck and The Band all in one
much on offer here
Rheostatics – Double Live
superb live Rheos
so much talent it boggles
I miss this great group
Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
the master is back
ballsy bluesy gritty strong
so sweet and so real
Pearl Jam – Ten Redux
a mind-blowing first record
you have to own this
n.b. I bought the 3-disc deluxe edition of the Ten re-release, not the glorious mega-box that (to this day) I frequently see in my dreams. Still, this set is so yummy it makes me tingly just knowing it’s sitting there, waiting for me to play it again. And again.
Stuck On The Gimmes
My first car, a ’93 Honda Civic that I got in ’97 or so, kicked a whole lotta ass. It was a 5-speed, low and wide, and man, I drove the snot out of that thing. The last tape in that car’s tape deck was a mix of Me First And The Gimme Gimmes which, as I discovered when I went to sell the car in ’99, had become irrevocably stuck in the tape deck. So, the only options for music in the car at that point were the radio, and the Gimmes. I choose Gimmes!
Well, here I am a decade later with an ’03 Ford Taurus, and it has a tape deck in it too. Yes, in this day and age! Imagine! And so I have made a new mix tape of the Gimmes for this car. It’s only fair. Of course, they have released several more albums in the intervening decade, so the mix is much expanded and improved.
My only hope is that this mix, too, will get stuck in the tape deck. Call it Car-ma. OK, sorry, that was bad. But funny! And if that kid who bought that Honda ten years ago played his cards right, he could still be driving that car, and still grooving to the Gimmes, same as me!
The Tracks Of My 2009 (60 min) Gimmes Mix:
Nothing Compares 2 U
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Stand By Your Man
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
It’s Raining On Prom Night
Only The Good Die Young
Nobody Does It Better
Who Put The Bomp
The Times They Are A-Changin’
End Of The Road
You’ll notice I left off tracks from the Live At Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah record, favouring album tracks instead. And the Bob Dylan cover on Side B is from the Turn Japanese EP. For those of you who care.
As you all know, Pearl Jam has released a very limited edition of their Ten re-release. It comes in a big beautiful box, with CDs, a DVD, some vinyls, a tape and a book (and who knows what else).
Recently, I held a copy of it in my hands. It was $220.
As a fan, I wanted it. I felt joy just holding it. I love that album, and that band. I knew I would appreciate it to no end. As a collector, I knew that getting one of only 1200 copies would be special, probably precious but, more importantly, worthwhile to me personally.
As a man who will become a father (for the first time) any day now, I didn’t buy it. I have lots of other priorities. And that’s not to say that having a baby made me wuss out. No, it just didn’t feel right. There was a time I wouldn’t have thought twice and just bought it. Now, well, I guess not… Interesting. The collector in me will regret it. The practical person in me won’t.
My next foray into the difficult task of creating mere 60 minute car mix-tapes of my favourite bands has led me, as I am always happily led, back to Sloan. How I do love this band. Imagine how difficult it was to make only one tape! Nevertheless, my attempt yielded the following:
The Rest Of My Life
Keep On Thinking
Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay
Believe In Me
So Beyond Me
I Am The Cancer
G Turns To D
The Good In Everyone
Money City Maniacs
Who Taught You To Live Like That?
If It Feels Good Do It
Everything You’ve Done Wrong
The Lines You Amend
And still there were a ton I wanted on there. So awesome.
The Someday iPod
Yes, someday I will have an iPod. True, just about everyone else seems to have one (except for me). True, I do own Weed King, the 1GB player my parents got for me, and it is indeed great. I even have the tape deck adapter for it for my car. But I can fill 1GB in the time it takes me to blink. I just have to start loading all the Hip, Sloan, Hawksley, Weaker… oh wait, the Weakerthans won’t fit. Shit. I didn’t even finish with a fraction of my Canuck faves, let alone my punk or metal or… See what I mean?
And so, one day I will have an iPod to be a companion for my super-amazing MacBook Pro. And it will be one of the ones that has something huge for storage capacity. To heck with these Nanos and those touch-screens with their still-tiny memories. For the same price I can skip out on the touch interface that I’d hate and actually have some leg room for all the music I want to take with me everywhere which is, admittedly, a substantial amount of tunes.
I’ve also noticed that Apple offers two free lines of engraving on iPods, too, and I already know what mine will say, it’ll say “It’s about fucking time/Aaron got an iPod.”
Of course, probably by the time I can afford one, it’ll just be an iChip that you plug into the port that Apple wet-wires behind your ears (for a fee), and you’ll control albums and tracks by altering how you flex your butt cheeks and wink your eyes, or whatever. But still, it is good to have a goal.
The Hawksley Project
Recently, I resolved to attempt a Hawksley Workman mix that’s limited to a 60 minute mix tape for the car. To mitigate the obvious difficulty inherent in such oppressive selectiveness, James kindly offered his services and so he and I split the duties by selecting a side’s worth of tracks apiece. I very much doubt that our selections reliably indicate the different aspects of what we like about this genuine artist’s output, since it’s categorically impossible to dislike anything the man does.
So, James chose his 8 tracks, and I chose mine, and then I fleshed it out to make an 80 minute CD for the other car (which actually has a CD player in it), so the end result looks like this:
Side A: Chosen With Love By James
We Will Still Need A Song
Kissing Girls (You Shouldn’t Kiss)
Alone Here (Ballad Of Bunches Of Things)
Clever Not Beautiful
Spider In The Salt
Every Creepy Pusher
Side B: Chosen With Glee By Aaron
Jealous Of Your Cigarette
Anger As Beauty
Is This What You Call Love?
Your Naked Body
Safe And Sound
Extra Tracks On The CD Version:
19 And The Morning Here Is Cold
21 Even An Ugly Man
22 Piano Blink (Los Manlicious version)
23 Sweet Hallelujah
What a great mix. When I listen to this on my way to work, I just know it’ll be impossible for me to have a bad day! Hawksley rules!
I’ve made a bit of a hobby out of collecting Pearl Jam’s releases. I’m nowhere near a completist but I still do fairly well. I mean, who has the funds for keeping on top of things, when they release every show from every tour, not to mention side-projects and everything else? I wish I did.
But I can’t remember ever seeing this single from No Code before, so of course I picked it up. Neat! And it’s the second single of theirs I now own that was made in Austria. Interesting. The collector-geek in me is drooling…
So there’s only two tracks to be found here: First is the title track of the single as it appeared on the album, and what a great rock track it is! I love it when Eddie yells about love, although that line “are you woman enough to be man” always makes my lovely wife laugh at its silliness. Second is a previously unreleased (in 1996) track called Black, Red, Yellow, which is a slinky little number to which you can’t help bobbing your head and tapping your feet to the beat. So cool that most of their b-sides put a lot of other bands’ a-sides to shame.
This was a cool find.
01 Hail, Hail
02 Black, Red, Yellow
Ah, Pearl Jam. I still love this band. I know people forget what they used to think about bands like this, as time passes and tastes change. But I sure haven’t forgotten. I still think they’re a vital band whose history should not be overlooked, and whose new music has always been just as great and as durable as anything else they’ve done.
When we were in Toronto last weekend, our good friend Kristy gave me this CD single she’d found somewhere in her travels, knowing I’m a big fan of the band. Get this – it was released 16 years ago. I know! How often did we hear this song, and how often does rock radio still play it, even after all these years? Exactly.
This is also a really neat copy, made in Austria. I know you may be saying, “well, so?” but I’m enough of a music geek to be tickled by imports and different singles, cover art and the like. I know, but I think I have a life. So there.
Hearing Even Flow now is like inviting an old friend over your threshold, knowing exactly how they’ll react and what they’ll say in every moment because you’ve spent so much time with them already, but not thinking of it as anything other than it being the way it should be. The song is still so strong, a template for many other rock bands who claim to be trying to have a little soul and power simultaneously.
I played this track for our friend Susan the other night, during a demonstration of my wonderful new MacBook Pro, and all she said was “thank g-d for Hendrix, eh?” Haha. Yah, it’s long been acknowledged that these riffs (and the solos) are certainly in his style. And so what? It’s a nice tribute.
Well, if Even Flow is meant to sound like Hendrix, Dirty Frank is Pearl Jam channelling the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s funky, bouncy and has a really cool, sweet groove. It would have been great on the album, and in fact my copy of Ten is the Euro version (of course), which includes it anyway, but it must have been hard to cut this track for the North American release. It’s ton of fun, and has an amusing reference to the Theme From Shaft, too.
Last up on the single is a remix of Oceans. There’s drums at the beginning, in fact they’re all the way through, and the guitars seem heavier somehow. But it’s basically the same song as on the record, otherwise. Still, what a great track, and I love hearing different versions of songs. They’re like snapshots the band took on their way to their final vision.
I don’t know if this is collectable these days are not, but I’m definitely going to hang on to it. I am very grateful to Kristy for making a gift of such a great little collection of songs!
01 Even Flow
02 Dirty Frank
03 Oceans (Remix)
Back in the summer, James awesomely sent me gift card birfday monies for Chapters/Indigo and I was totally gonna use it when we were in Toronto a little while after that because our town, while we probably have an Elderly Woman Behind A Counter somewhere, doesn’t have that particular store (and I know I can go online, but let me tell the story). Anyway, we were about halfway to the city when I realized I’d helpfully left the card at home. Go me! Hm.
So I came across this most generous gift again recently, and I went online (see!) and ordered three very different pieces of awesomeness! Thanks heaps, James!! Wahooo!
This DVD marks 2007 Birfday Awesomeness #1.
I’ve stated recently here that I really like Pearl Jam. And a new DVD of the band in concert always makes me happy, so this was one of the things I ordered. I just watched it the other night and it is fantastic. The video quality is superb (as is the sound), the production itself is peerless, and I’ll say once again that this is a band that is an entirely different Animal in a live setting, and that energy is perfectly captured here.
Filmed during five tour stops in Italy in 2006, this is a brilliant documentary of the band back stage, in conversation and on stage (of course). Intercut between songs is what amounts to a fan doc and a tour guide video all in one. At first I thought that this was going to be distracting. After all, I’d plugged in the DVD expecting to see Pearl Jam in concert. And that is there, but with these interludes between. After a while they grew on me and I switched gears in my head from show-only (Like Touring Band 2000) to Documentary Film. Then it worked perfectly.
Anyway, I saw online somewhere where one person noted that they took one look at the short track listing of this set and were initially disappointed before they even watched the disc. It is true that a usual Pearl Jam show pushes two hours or more and 20-25 songs. With all the documentary stuff in between, on this set we get about half the usual number of songs (plus three bonus feature performances). But it hardly matters, and I’m sure that once that person saw this disc in its entirety, they were thrilled with what is included. Each song is awesome and worth the ticket price alone.
I love every song here, and it’s (once again) nice to see them totally mixing up old and new material as if it’s no big thing. I get the feeling that, for them, it really isn’t. There are many highlights from the performance footage, like Mike McCready and Matt Cameron showing off during Even Flow, or Eddie’s little wipe out after jumping off an amp during Alive. Watching him during that song, one can see that he’d found a place of total abandon. I don’t know how much is performance and how much is real (or if they’re the same thing for him) but it’s captivating viewing.
Every song has moments of brilliance, and each stands as proof that Pearl Jam is a highly efficient live music machine by now, and firing on all cylinders every minute without fail.
Run out and buy this, kids. It’s a keeper.
01 Severed Hand
02 World Wide Suicide
03 Life Wasted
05 State Of Love And Trust
07 Even Flow
12 Come Back
13 Rockin’ In The Free World
01 Eddie Vedder w. opening act My Morning Jacket – A Quick One While He’s Away
02 Eddie Vedder solo – Throw Your Arms Around Me
03 Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter
I want to tell the whole internets that my lovely wife is an incredibly thoughtful person. And she’s hot! I am a lucky, lucky boy. You see, for our anniversary this year she gave me yet another reminder that she is most generous and caring (and patient) – the new 7 CD (!) box set of live Pearl Jam, called Live At The Gorge.
Oh man. I should explain.
I really like Pearl Jam. Indeed, I love ‘em. I have all of their albums and singles and EPs and DVDs and collectible things, and even a good chunk of their crazy live-release blitz from a few years back. Yeah, I like this band. A lot.
I even got to see them in concert myself once, in Barrie, ON in 1996. What a great show. We saw 6 bands that day and Pearl Jam, as headliners, totally took everybody else to school. There’s something about a Pearl Jam show that is just so… comforting. It’s an event. There’s a real feeling of connection that stems from a genuine desire to just peacefully make music. Awesome.
So imagine my glee when I first saw this box set as a Ten Club members-only release on their web site. Just knowing it existed was cool for me. I don’t actually belong to the Club, never have. I couldn’t tell you why, really. I mean, I should belong… Anyway, a little while later I was quite surprised to see the set for sale at our shitty Corporate Whore store at the mall, and at the time I talked myself out of buying it because I am an idiot.
So, I let it go for a while and figured I’d pick it up someday. And then my lovely wife surprised me with it as a gift! See how awesome she is? Amazing. And the set itself? It’s a treasure trove. Covering three full shows at the same venue in less than a year, we’re treated to a band that has been at its peak so long that they make other groups look and sound bad.
So here’s my thoughts show by show, because you can expect no less here at the KMA!
September 1, 2005 (CDs 1-3)
Disc 1 is just like their Benoroya Hall set, hits done acoustic, and they start with a laid-back Ramones cover. Ballsy and auspicious! The version of Black on this disc is hair-raising – a highlight track. It seems Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were staying in some hotel nearby so Eddie had the crowd calling them out all night. Funny.
Over the course of this show we’re treated to so many awesome album tracks, all played with so much energy you’d think they were all written yesterday. We also get added awesome older tracks (Crown Of Thorns from the Mother Love Bone days, and State Of Love And Trust from Singles), as well as some cool covers from The Who and (big surprise, on this night) Tom Petty. Sure Eddie fucked up the words, but who cares? This was a completely brilliant set. These three discs were worth it all by themselves. The sound quality is fantastic, and for a band who sounds best live, this is the ultimate gift for fans. I found it odd that there wasn’t a cover tune at the end of Daughter, as is their usual practice. Instead it’s just some repetitive stuff. Whatever. Forget about it. This set kicked ass.
July 22, 2006 (CDs 4-5)
Almost a full year (and another album) later, the band was back at the Gorge and tearing the roof off the mothersucker. Starting off the gig with an old track (Wash) is great, and peppering the set with some more old gems (Dirty Frank, Footsteps) is totally cool. I love how they can include b-sides and oldies with their hits and it all sounds great. They hit their stride very early on in this gig, and they never once let up or look back.
There’s a really, really, really blistering Even Flow with stunning solos from Mike McCready and Matt Cameron. This is totally a highlight track here. This time around, the end of Daughter finds Eddie talking about the weather (?!) and doing a whole “everything’s gonna be OK” call and response thing with the crowd, all set to the chords of (get this) what sounds suspiciously like Bush’s Glycerine. It was surreal. But by the time they hit Life Wasted it’s all back to a frenzy again. Eddie announces a ‘short’ encore and then they proceed to play 15 more tracks. Haha.
They hit a really slinky Once, whip off a great version of one of my many favourites of theirs, Leash, and let loose a really awesome intro to Porch. Go was absolutely stunning, kicking off maybe the Best Last 5 Songs Of A Show Ever. Each track is killer! There’s a great cover of Neil Young, and Yellow Ledbetter morphing into Little Wing was cool (and a nice nod to the song from which it was ripped off), and then bleeding further into the Star Spangled Banner à la Hendrix too. It was the Mike McCready Show.
All I can say is WOW!
July 23, 2006 (CDs 6-7)
My 32nd birthday, as it turns out (although I was unfortunately nowhere near this gig), and Pearl Jam’s second night in a row at the Gorge for 2006. On this night they got right to it with the rockin’, and they never let up. They get 6 tracks into the show before Eddie even really acknowledges the crowd. A band on a mission. Wahoo! They are unbelievably tight here, yet again. Turns out it was their last show on that tour, so they were firing full guns before the party stopped.
McCready was at it again on Even Flow (that guy’s AMAZING). And I have to say it takes some balls to reprise your own song, on an organ no less, long before you even play the song you are reprising. Cool. It was great to hear Garden, and really, the end of Disc 6 is all older-ish tracks and therefore awesome. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear Jeremy, even after all this time? This is a band that can play their entire catalogue, any song at any time, and it all fits and it all sounds fucking amazing. They don’t just play the radio hits. These are all hits, baby! Yeah! I love that they play everything, whenever they want.
The Whipping brings things to such an amazing boil (what a cool track!). Eddie brings up Tom Petty again, wondering aloud who recalls 2005… and the crowd starts calling Petty out again, unprompted, thus proving they’d all been there for Discs 1-3 the year before. Awesome!
Big Wave and Marker In The Sand, songs off the new record (as you’re well aware), sound absolutely great live. Following that up with two more from Vitalogy totally made my day. The version of Alive here is a highlight track. Picking up on the Hendrix Little Wing teaser from the night before, they play the whole song this time, which is so brilliant I’m speechless about it. The Neil Young cover here is great, as is their now-classic cover of Victoria Williams’ brilliant tune, and Eddie makes a better job of the Petty cover this time around.
It should be noted that, while playing the Star Spangled Banner at the end of Yellow Ledbetter the first night was fun, doing it again the second night is kinda off. I mean, it’s one thing to highlight Hendrix and prove you love him by emulating him for a while. It’s quite another to just copy his own thing for yourself. Anyway. I hope that doesn’t become a regular display at PJ gigs.
That little bit of bitching aside, this was an out-of-this-world fantastic show, and a marvelous way to end a tour.
Summation: All 7 CDs
Now sure, you may notice that some of the tracks repeat. I just got done saying they can play their whole catalogue, and more often than not they do, but sure they played some of the same songs at each show because there are definitely songs people come out to hear. Same as with any other band. What I love about Pearl Jam, though, is their ability to mix it up around those points. The possible combinations really are endless.
The sound quality here is superb, and there is no question that this is a high class set by a band at the top of their game.
If you care even remotely about this band, this is a must-own box. It’s a highlight reel from first track to last track. Kudos to the band for this momentous release.
And my immense thanks to my lovely wife for gifting this treasure to me.
I LOVED it.
Show #1: September 1, 2005
01 I Believe In Miracles
02 Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
03 Off He Goes
04 Low Light
05 Man Of The Hour
06 I Am Mine
07 Crazy Mary
09 Hard To Imagine
01 Given To Fly
02 Last Exit
03 Save You
04 Do The Evolution
07 Even Flow
08 Not For You
14 In My Tree
15 State Of Love And Trust
01 encore break
02 Love Boat Captain
04 Better Man
06 I Won’t Back Down
07 Last Kiss
08 Crown Of Thorns
10 Yellow Ledbetter
11 Baba O’Riley
Show #2: July 22, 2006
03 Hail Hail
04 World Wide Suicide
05 Severed Hand
06 Given To Fly
07 Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
08 Even Flow
10 I Am Mine
16 Life Wasted
01 encore break
05 State Of Love And Trust
06 Crown Of Thorns
09 Last Kiss
10 Inside Job
12 Baba O’Riley
13 Dirty Frank
14 Rockin’ In The Free World
15 Yellow Ledbetter
Show #3: July 23, 2006
01 Severed Hand
03 World Wide Suicide
04 God’s Dice
06 Do The Evolution
07 In Hiding
08 Green Disease
09 Even Flow
10 Marker In The Sand
11 Wasted Reprise
12 Better Man
13 Army Reserve
18 Why Go
01 encore break
02 I Won’t Back Down
03 Life Wasted
04 Big Wave
05 Satan’s Bed
06 Spin The Black Circle
08 Given to Fly
09 Little Wing
10 Crazy Mary
12 Fuckin’ Up
13 Yellow Ledbetter
See what I mean? Oh man, this box set was amazing.
While in Toronto a few weeks ago, I noticed this CD and, in a mild state of shock (I usually know about Pearl Jam’s releases long before they hit the street because I follow their web sites for news quasi-religiously), I asked my wife, “Uh, had you heard about this?” She hadn’t, but she well knows about my long-standing appreciation of this band. Intrigued, I pawed it for a long while, but I regretfully left it behind that day. I balked at the ridiculously high Corporate Bastard price tag on a short little EP.
Returning home, this intrepid reporter did some online sleuthing and, remarkably, with none of the main PJ sites mentioning it at all (!), it was amazon.com (not .ca), among others, who revealed that this EP was released back in June, part of a full set the band had done in a Seattle record shop back in April ’05. The show was in support of the 10th anniversary of something called the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS). Sounds like something they’d get behind, all right.
Anyway, back in Toronto yesterday, I grabbed a copy (despite the same high price), convinced by th elack of press that it would be a strictly limited edition thing. Time will tell on that score, but it really should stick around in mass release because this CD rocks. In fact, if somebody who has a say in such matters happens to read this, release the entire show, pretty please!
The sound quality’s great, the band is flying in top form, and the covers are aptly-chosen and blistering. Whatever you may think of Pearl Jam and their idiosyncrasies, politics and music, they are not to be denied as a quality live act, and this happy little EP proves it in spades. I recommend it.