The only Peal Jam live album! I think the story here was that PJ was a notoriously great live band (in an early 90s way), but didn’t want to release a live album for fear of ripping of their fans. They got around to it ten years later when they owed Sony another record, and were prepping them for inclement comfy sweater status. Of course, they’d already released “Dissident,” which amounted to a full live album, but that was a single in three parts. This is a real, canon live album. Also, they realized their fans really wanted a little rip-offy live album.
So hear it is, and it’s about five years too late to catch PJ at their rockin’ peak, but also five years too early to catch them comfortably in their “we’ll play whatever the fuck because we’re old” phase. So you get hits, but badly, and very good filler album tracks. Eddie sounds especially mumbly here, and the disconnect his screamy tone and his normal bassy singing tone is pretty stark. The lead guitar is too trebly for these kinds of mid-tempo rock god solos (fun to play, I’m sure), and the drums sound too light as well, but at least the rhythm guitar sounds full and well mixed. Musically the guys start out with a thin version of “Corduroy” and a meh “Given To Fly,” but really kick it with the interesting for the next six or so songs, showing a little humour (“this one is called ‘Longest Song Title in the Pearl Jam Catalogue'” before “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”), and some live creativity – blending together “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “WMA” into the coda of “Daughter” and a pretty unreleased “Untitled” before “MFC.” Sadly, the notably bad (and warbly) “Red Mosquito” ruins the momentum, and it’s a lot of motions going through from then on, culminating in the blah “Black” for almost seven minutes.
Jesus, that’s the worst PJ song ever. Any song that cries “why? Why? WHY?” about a breakup and ends with a whiny, repetitive two minute guitar solo also about said breakup is gonna ugh me right out. But then the closer is a neat cover of Neil Young’s “Fuckin Up” (sorry, “F*ckin Up” – we mustn’t let the kiddies know how to complete that sware word!), and I find myself thinking ‘why DO I keep fuckin up?’ So maybe I should be a bit easy on the heartbroken. But nah. The only really exciting part is at the end where they invite up the kid in the wheelchair and flay him alive and use his skin to cover their drums and then beat the drums with his jawbone, to wild applause.