We Opine on Pearl Jam

Over their nearly 20-year career,  Pearl Jam has become a hard band to define. Of course some will forever think of them as a Grunge band, but while 1991’s Ten somehow both defines and transcends the subgenre, their follow-up Vs. shows the band had already outgrown the limitations of that label. Fifteen years and seven more studio albums later, the band’s instantly identifiable yet unclassifiable sound combines punk energy, progressive complexity, folky melodic simplicity and arena rock bravado.

Some critics have seized upon that seemingly incongruous blend and suggested that Pearl Jam may indeed be a jamband! And while the very thought may send a shiver down the spines of longtime Ten Club members, the comparison does have its merits. Though they don’t tour every year (and perhaps because of this) fans follow the band for multiple shows, and lasting friendships and families have been born from the resulting community atmosphere. And while they don’t scramble the setlists every night to the degree that Phish does, there is a true sense that any song in their catalog is in play on any given night.

To really get to the essence of Pearl Jam, all you need to do is see a show like the one they played last Saturday at the Clark County Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA. It becomes apparent that this band does not need a label or a genre. You know what you are getting at a Pearl Jam concert – a heavy dose of the new album, plenty of singalongs from Ten and Vs., a few lesser-known album tracks and a song or two that will not be heard again for the rest of the tour. All played with the same urgency and passion as the day they were written. 

 I suppose it’s become somewhat cliche’ to say that a band transcends genres and defies classification, so let me just say it this way. Pearl Jam is a rock band. When was the last time anyone had to explain what kind of music is the Who or Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones or U2, Bruce Springsteen or Jimi Hendrix? While Pearl Jam may not have reached as wide an audience yet, they have earned the respect given to those legendary names by creating music that defines their era.

Sep 26, 2009
Set 1
Gonna See My Friend, Last Exit, Why Go, The Fixer, In Hiding, Johnny Guitar, Green Disease, Amongst The Waves, Even Flow, Off He Goes, Unthought Known, Daughter, Supersonic, Present Tense, Got Some, Once, Life Wasted
Encore 1 Golden State*, The End, Red Mosquito**, Inside Job, Go
Encore 2 Do The Evolution, Not For You(Modern Girl), Black, Porch, Yellow Ledbetter(The Star-Spangled Banner) 
*Eddie w/Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) 
** w/Ben Harper

Donna was psyched to get a t-shirt with the classic stick man logo.
Donna was psyched to get a t-shirt with the classic stick man logo.

3 Replies to “We Opine on Pearl Jam”

  1. I will admit, I only mentioned the jamband comparisons to annoy my wife. I’ve been teasing her about it since long before Pearl Jam headlined Bonnaroo. And I thought I had more ammunition with the fact that Ben Harper was the opening act. But his new band Relentless 7 proved me wrong, delivering a much harder sound than I’ve ever heard from Ben’s frequent appearances on the summer festival circuit.

  2. Nice job, Mike. Pearl Jam certainly does have slight jamband tendencies. I have about 10 of those “bootleg” cd’s they released and they do what they can to vary versions, setlists, banter, etc.

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