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Pearl Jam 20 review!

| September 6, 2011

As career choices go, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t exactly the most reliable path. Failure is the rule not the exception. So any time a band reaches any sort of recognizable milestone, it’s usually cause for celebration. When that benchmark is two decades, well, a simple Hallmark card isn’t going to do it.

Visit our online photo galleries for more pictures from the weekend.

Seattle quintet Pearl Jam chose to acknowledge their 20th Anniversary by throwing a massive party honoring themselves. If this all seems a bit narcissistic, then perhaps further explanation is required. Since their inception, during the heyday of what was then collared with the moniker Alternative Rock, the band have managed to cultivate one of the most devoted followings in popular music. How? In addition to writing music that is so emotionally charged it has managed to connect with an amazing number of people, the band have taken their business model and added an element most don’t contain: customer satisfaction.

Throughout their existence, Pearl Jam have fought to keep ticket prices low, product quality high, and have treated their fans with respect, as opposed to just another paying customer. In return, those same fans have showered the band with a devoted relationship that has rarely been seen in rock music. Comparisons to the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Jimmy Buffet are apropos, given the commitment those groups have also showed to those who pay their bills.

So it should come as no surprise that Pearl Jam would extend the same courtesy and attitude toward a festival that they curated themselves, extending invitations to artists and friends they admire and get them all in the same place in the hope of creating something special.

Over two nights on Labor Day weekend, singer Eddie Vedder and company were once again rightly served by their instincts. By booking acts like grunge veterans Mudhoney, psych-metal giants Queens Of The Stone Age, The Strokes, and a host of other artists playing side stages, the band dialed in a mix of well-known and critically respected co-conspirators (Glen Hansard, Liam Finn, and John Doe among others) into a memorable birthday bash.

Given the way this band operate, it was an early assumption that this would not be a tour through the greatest hits. Considering people literally came in from around the globe, the band dug deep. Over the course of two sets (one each night), the band searched the darkest corners, unearthing deep cuts from a now extensive list of choices.

“Push Me, Pull Me” and “Help Me” had serious mothballs on them due to the rarity with which they’ve been played. Queens frontman Josh Homme popped out for a cameo on “In The Moonlight” and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas added backing vocals to “Not For You.” (Members of Pearl Jam would return the favor all weekend, hitting side stages for cameos and sit-ins).

What was arguably the highlight of the weekend was a reunion of Temple Of The Dog. The group were formed by PJ members Jeff Ament (bass), Stone Gossard (guitar), Mike McCready (guitar) and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (vocals) and drummer (Pearl Jam’s current skinman) Matt Cameron. Their self-titled (and only) release was written in the wake of the loss of their friend Andrew Wood, the lead singer of the Seattle-based band Mother Love Bone.

The golden throated Cornell powered through spiraling anthems like “Say Hello To Heaven,” “Reach Down,” and called Vedder out to replicate his vocals on “Hunger Strike.” By now, most in attendance were seriously losing their shit.

Combined, the two sets that Pearl Jam played on Saturday and Sunday totaled more than six hours of music and close to 60 songs. It would have been an epic stretch of music for a group of younger steeds, let alone a collection of fortysomething men. But as Vedder remarked Sunday night, the weekend felt less like a look back and more like a rebirth.  

— Curt Baran

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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Comments (3)

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  1. Lulu says:

    Thank you for expressing so eloquently our feelings for the band!

  2. joe says:

    VERY well stated! From a fan’s perspective, this is an excellent article.

  3. brittany says:

    The exclusive footage of this band is going to be mind-blowing. The 9/20 is long-awaited and I’m super stoked. AND, what’s even cooler, fans can try and win their own screening…