more seasoned fans of Pearl Jam, the mid-’90s bring to mind mixed feelings of
excitement and disappointment. While the band released two of the best albums
from the decade in Vs. and Vitalogy, the group also engaged in a
hopeless battle against Ticketmaster. This resulted in few live performances in
the U.S. by one of the best acts of the era
during its creative peak.
band began to make things right with its 1998 tour in support of its fifth
album, Yield, including shows at
previously boycotted Ticketmaster venues. The resulting live album, Live on Two legs, released just in time
for the holiday season in ’98, is a blistering, exhilarating collection of 16
songs showing just what fans had missed. Lead singer Eddie Vedder even says at
one point, after the album kicks off with “Corduroy,” “Given to Fly” and “Hail
Hail,” that “We’re making up for lost time here.”
of this, of course, is a distant memory as the band’s most recent live
compilation Live on Ten Legs.
Beginning in 2000, the band has consistently toured every couple of years,
playing hundreds of shows. In conjunction with most of these shows, the band
has released “official” bootlegs, simply pressed with the date and location of
the more or less entire set of each show. Toss in 2004’s Live at Benaroya Hall, and the 2007 double shot of the
download-only Live at Lollapalooza 2007 and the seven-disc Live at the Gorge
05/06, and, well, there’s no shortage of live Pearl Jam to readily be had.
from a band with so many releases of practically every show the group has done
in the last 11 years, is a new live Pearl Jam compilation necessary?
18-song Live on Ten Legs is
technically excellent. The recordings boast amazing sound quality, and Vedder’s
iconic voice sounds as strong and hungry as ever, and lead guitarist Mike
McCready stands out for his exceptional ax work.
new tracks demonstrate that 20 years on, Pearl Jam still has chops. Two
selections from Backspacer stand out:
“The Fixer” grips, and “Just Breathe” is a beautiful interlude. The Joe
Strummer “Arms Aloft” cover kicks off the album well, and even some of the old
stuff comes across as fresh, highlighted by “Reviewmirror,” “State of Love
& Trust” and “Spin the Black Circle.”
Jam has nine studio albums to its name, and all but No Code show up here. But that exclusion disappoints. The band could
have included “Habit” or “Present Tense,” or at the least squeezed in the brief
“Lukin.” And there’s one only Yield track,
the welcomed sing-along “In Hiding.”
of Two Legs will notice that there
are no duplicates from that compilation here, which is a nice touch. But
whereas Two Legs comprised of songs
from a specific summer following a drought of live performances, Ten Legs draws from 2003 to 2010, making
for a lack of context.
do we really need the all-too-familiar opening riff of “Jeremy” or “Alive”? Ten Legs thinks so. Or the – surprise
surprise – closing “Yellow Ledbetter” (as opposed to something like The Who’s
“Baba O’Riley, which the band has closed with at times). Throw in an
unnecessary “Animal,” and spots on the album feel stale. At least, thankfully,
“Daughter” didn’t make the cut, with its typically indulgent, bloated and
unneeded jam session.
you’re 13 and wondering what these Pearl Jam fellas are all about, Live on Ten Legs is a perfectly
acceptable primer. Heck, grab Two Legs as well, and you’ll own a collection of
33 songs spanning the Pearl Jam catalog. Or, if you only check into PJ once
every 10 years or so, pick this up. Or maybe a completist, but you’ve probably
already bought this. For the rest of us, Live
on Ten Legs is a well-produced yet unnecessary compilation with few
Fixer,” “Arms Aloft” “Spin the Black Circle”