Pearl Jam’s induction into the Hall of Fame could probably have been regarded as inevitable: I’m glad to see it though.
2017 was the first year they were eligible, according to the HoF rules. In a year that saw the legendary Joan Baez also inducted, along with the late rapper Tupac Shakur among others, David Letterman attended to give the speech inducting the Seattle legends.
Eddie Vedder and co then gave a three-song performance consisting of ‘Alive’, ‘Given to Fly’ and ‘Better Man’.
While ‘Given to Fly’ was an interesting choice and ‘Alive’ might be considered a necessity, I’m not sure the chosen three songs do the best job of showcasing Pearl Jam’s powers and their vast discography. ‘Better Man’, for me, could’ve been swapped for something else.
But whatever; I’m glad they were given the honour – though, again, it was probably inevitable, just as much as Nirvana’s 2014 induction was.
When I first got into Pearl Jam as an early-teen in the mid-90s, I would never have thought they’d still be going strong two decades later. I’m grateful for that, and for the consistently rich body of work they’ve produced in all that time.
From the days, as a kid, that I was playing the Vs cassette over and over again in my bedroom to the summer I spent clinging to No Code (I also spent something like two months listening to ‘I Got ID’ from the Merkinball EP two or three times a day), to the first time I saw them live (at Wembley in 2000 on the Binaural tour) to the last time I saw them live (2014 in Milton Keynes – the show that sparked off all that ‘anti-Semitism’ controversy), I’ve been a loyal and returning pilgrim to the altar of Pearl Jam: and will, no doubt, remain so.
So here’s to Pearl Jam.
And, by the way, I’ve thought about it and I would’ve gone with ‘Once’ (for the sheer dynamism), ‘State of Love and Trust’ (for sheer passion) and then ended with either ‘Alive’ or ‘Jeremy’ (for the general crowd or the nostaglists).
Also, that aforementioned 2000 show at Wembley is probably still the best concert I’ve ever been to.
I remember that night so well, as there was something vaguely magical in the air. It was Matt Cameron’s first tour with the band. Binaural had just come out – which was a great record; I still in fact rank Binaural up there with No Code and Vs in the contest for my favorite PJ album.
They played for hours. And they seemingly played everything.
Eddie had even come out hours earlier, before any of the support-acts, and treated early arrivals to a solo rendition of ‘Last Kiss’. The last time I saw PJ, Eddie did the same thing – except he gave a solo rendition of ‘Porch’.
The show-proper opened beautifully – even, again, somewhat magically – with the super-quiet ‘Sometimes’ from the No Code album, which was an extraordinarily off-beat way to open a set. What it did that was spellbinding, however, was amplify the palpable excitement and anticipation of the crowd, who could be heard in all the quiet moments. I vividly remember Eddie (or Stone Gossard – I can’t remember which) using a guitar to simulate the ‘thunderstorm’ effect from the recorded version.
A whole, private, quiet universe seemed to exist in that two-to-three minute song.
What followed was a set-list pulling songs from every PJ record (‘Grievance’, ‘Thin Air’, ‘Last Exit’, ‘Do the Evolution’, ‘Dissident’, to name a few). The encore alone consisted of 9 songs, starting with ‘State of Love and Trust’, including ‘Rearviewmirror’ and ending with ‘Black’ and ‘Alive’. That version of ‘Rearviewmirror’ was absolutely blistering. Even after this, they still wanted to keep playing, but Eddie complained the venue would fine them for going any further.
I’ve seen a lot of rock n’roll up close, but I’ve never seen any artist throw as much energy into shows and play on for as long as Pearl Jam always do.
But then that’s one of the many reasons they have such a loyal and extraordinary fan-base. The last time I saw them live, I encountered a group of people who’d flown to England all the way from Mexico just to see the show.
If I could go back in time to that 2000 show, I would: back to a simpler, seemingly more innocent time and world, and the chance to experience one of the greatest bands in history still in their first decade, with the energy that much stronger.