Last week when I celebrated my one year blog-birthday, I compiled a list of twenty of my favorite tunes that have been featured here in the past 365 days. A couple of you were wondering why there was no Pearl Jam on that list, of a blog that is named after a Pearl Jam lyric, and whose author is admittedly a bit PJ-obsessed.
Well fear not, faithful reader.
I am pleased to present the second installment of a 10-song live mix of some choice cuts from the Pearl Jam stage. I have had a great time weeding through my hundreds of live selections to make this (completely arbitrary and highly selective) playlist of some of the best of the best. Part One is still active if you wish to take a look there too. It’s good for the constitution.
San Francisco 7/16/06 (pictured above)
This is such a tightly-wound celebration of surfing and the power of the ocean, but moreover, of life in general. I think it’s an underrated song on the new album and I would have loved to be able to see it live, sandwiched here in the second encore; surely the crowd was simultaneously exhausted and elated at this point. The guitar solos in this live version are outstanding, absolutely searing — the caged feel to the riffs reminds me of the best parts of “Do The Evolution.”
I Am Mine
Live debut, 10/21/01 – Bridge School Benefit
The melancholy richness in this version just slays me. This was the live debut of the song, which arrived on the scene following the trampling deaths of 9 fans at the Roskilde Festival in 2000. I have no proof that this song is about that tragedy, but the lyrics seem to me to imply as much: “All the innocents [innocence] lost at one time / There’s no need to hide . . . We’re safe tonight.” Where the album version is soaring and anthemic (and highly recommended if you’ve never really dug into it), Vedder’s voice here is gentler, more sincere, and a great deal sadder. It literally arrests me in mid-word to listen to this. Although it may sound a bit sappy, I also love the settled feeling of self-surety that I get when I hear the fantastic lyric, “I know I was born and I know that I’ll die, the inbetween is mine. I am mine.”
9/22/06, Prague, Czech Republic (pictured above)
A welcome re-introduction back into the Pearl Jam setlist, this song was first released as the b-side to the “Go” single, and then not played live for ten years (from 1994 to 2004), but lately they’ve started bringing it out of semi-retirement every once in a while. I could listen to this song over and over; not only does it have incisively descriptive story-lyrics (“Wide awake and he shakes in a panic, never woke up alone ever before . . . out of bed and he dreams in the shower, she’s standin’ naked and apologizing. Reaches for her and the water turns red hot, woken up to be burned, burned again“), but also a guitar riff that I adore — I feel that the best description I can offer is that it keeps pulling out from underneath you. It’s great to hear them doing this one live again.
In My Tree (with Jack Irons)
10/28/03, Santa Barbara, CA
Even though Jack Irons left as Pearl Jam’s drummer following the release of Yield in 1998, he completely owns this song and it has never been the same without him. One of my favorite studio cuts off of No Code, here Jack joins the band back on-stage to hammer out this organic, intricate and pulsating rhythm line in an acoustic setting. Listen to how it just rides and builds once he brings his magic.
I’ve Got A Feeling (Lennon/McCartney)
Den Haag, Holland, 3/2/92
Going waaay back for this one, I used to have this show on cassette, one of the very first bootlegs I owned. Pearl Jam recorded their bluesy, rocking, marvelous cover as a b-side for the Alive single/import, and it is an energetic and sometimes funny foray as they insert biographical trivia into the song. They had just finished their cameos in Cameron Crowe’s Singles, hence their lyric: “Everybody made a movie / Jeff Ament had one line (no, two!)” and there is a nice “Say Hello The Heaven” tag in the middle. I also love Eddie’s youthful-voiced diatribe at the beginning of the recording, wherein he basically tells the record company execs in the audience to “f*ck-off” and then almost comically covers himself by saying, “You know I don’t mean that.” No, actually Eddie, you did. And we love you for it. This is nine minutes that epitomizes the best of the early-90s PJ.
Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)
4/3/94, Atlanta radio broadcast
I have fond memories of recording this concert off the radio with my pink and grey tape deck. My world kind of stopped the night this was aired, and I spent many, many hours in high school playing this live show over and over until the tape started slipping. As many times as I’ve heard it, I still feel the tension and the glory in this absolutely thrashing song, which was one of the earliest covers to become a staple of the Pearl Jam live set. Even though the lyrics talk about some sort of time machine, they also talk about alienation and youthful angst and the things I loved Pearl Jam the most for back in those days.
Thumbing My Way
12/6/02, The Showbox, Seattle
This song is another understated, wistful pick from the otherwise somewhat off-putting Riot Act album. A special rehearsal/warm-up show in the tiny Seattle venue The Showbox (which I totally stalked out once on a college visit to Seattle), this was the very first performance of this song. The opening lyrics “I have not been home since you left, long ago” have a richer meaning, hearing them sung in their hometown on the eve of a long departure for a world tour. Such a gem, one I don’t foresee getting tired of anytime soon.
Halloween 2000, Shoreline, Mountain View, CA
A grand song from Yield, the darting opening notes of this song always sound so fantastic live, like they hold some secret of what’s to come. And what’s to come is a swelling, expansive chorus that is best sung along to at the top of your lungs and makes me feel like I am flying. Seeing Pearl Jam (with Supergrass supporting) on Halloween was a festive, fantastic affair. I was lucky to score the best seats I’ve ever sat in at the cavernous Shoreline, and came in costume (devil finery from the Moon Zooom thrift shop) along with most everyone else, including the band who appeared for the encore dressed as The Village People. No, seriously:
I Used To Work In Chicago
10/21/06 Bridge School Benefit
Speaking of sense of humor: Trying to “slip one by the kids” at the annual Bridge School Benefit show, Vedder fools to crowd the into thinking he is lapsing into something beautiful, then undertakes a traditional drinking ditty instead — complete with the lyrics, “I used to work in Chicago, I don’t but I don’t anymore . . . A lady walked in with porcelain skin, I asked her what she came in for. ‘Liquor’ she said, and lick her I did. I don’t work there anymore.”
So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star (Byrds cover)
7/2/06 Denver, CO
This was only the fourth live performance of this song ever, and I was there for the first two performances of it as well (San Jose & San Diego, 1995), which just tickles me pink. This is a tune about fame and “the business” of music originally recorded by The Byrds, then as the Pearl Jam website says, “[covered] by countless others including Patti Smith, the Move, Crowded House, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and anybody with a Rickenbacker 12 string.” The first time I saw them do it live, I recall it being a somber and introspective affair, but this time it was a solid full-band jam.