|Pearl Jam - Live at Lollapalooza 2007|
|Music Download Reviews Rock|
|Written by K L Poore|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007|
Here's the deal, about 15 minutes prior to a show Eddie Vedder scans the audience, gets a vibe and goes back and writes a set list. I imagine it wasn't too difficult to work up a winning set for this show, after all it's a huge outdoor festival and people are there to RAWK, but what he gives the audience at Live at Lollapalooza 2007 puts on full display what the hardcore fans of the band already know. Pearl Jam is one of the greatest live bands ever.
It's not just that they come out and jackhammer you into a sweet rock 'n roll frenzy by opening with “Why Go,” “Corduroy,” “Save You” and “Do the Evolution” (any two of which, when played consecutively, threaten to set the sky on fire), but they follow that spine-shifting onslaught with the largely acoustic “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town” and make it sound as natural as the progression of the seasons.
And that's what PJ does as well as anyone, they effortlessly glide between frenetic and calm and in doing so turn their audience, no matter the size, into a community. The people who know the words sing along, and those that don't wish they could. And LAL2007 is that very experience recorded. You listen to it and you wish you were there. Eddie mentions BP Amoco dumping in Lake Michigan and the crowd instantly takes up the chant, “Fuck BP.” The band starts in on “Better Man” and the crowd takes over the beginning of the song to which Eddie replies “Fuckin' beautiful.” They play one of hardest rocking songs ever put to tape (or hard drive), “Lukin,” and there's the crowd singing along. How do they do it? To restate, it's “Fuckin' beautiful.”
Yeah, Pearl Jam is now a “big rock show,” and they've become incredibly wealthy getting there, but they're connected to the best that rock can be. It's not the Rolling Stones lumbering through town with their hands out and an “I can't believe you're still paying us to do this” smirk on their faces. It's more like a Neil Young show and listening to the graying audience, thrilled to be in the presence of an artist so important to their lives, shout for him to play “Heart of Gold.” When he responds with “Campaigner” they're just as thrilled. It's not Bon Jovi at the Staples Center, it's the Who “Live at Leeds.” It's being in that room, whatever the size, and believing you're not only witnessing something so special you can't wait to tell your friends (if they're not passed out next to you), but you've become part of a collective that alternately wants to “Rip It Up” and “Give Peace a Chance.” It is danger and brotherhood. It's not the “herd behavior” of “Do the Evolution,” it's the joy of a temporary community engaged, and participating, in the world's most beautiful form of communication, music. And when the audience continues to sing “Alive” long after the band has finished, it's a spontaneous representation of that community. It's grown bigger than the band, or the venue, or the event. It's alive.
And the musicians who make up Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready & Matt Cameron) have a clear sense of what that community is, respect for the people in it, and what it is they're getting out of this symbiotic relationship. Eddie, in particular, seems to have the supernatural ability to make the audience believe that he'll be coming over to each of their houses after the show to have a few drinks and talk about Iggy Pop, Ted Leo and Kings of Leon. And no matter how many times he hands his wine bottle into the audience at the end of Victoria Williams' “Crazy Mary” it doesn't feel like James Brown's cape. And no matter how many people put their lips to the bottle before you, you drink too, 'cause you're all in it together.
When he looked out on the audience before this show in Chicago in the middle of summer Eddie decided to give them a show that they'd never forget. It was all the audience could want, or expect, and I wish that I'd been there with them … even though I've been to much better PJ shows I could tell you about. Well, everyone there could tell you, because they feel the same way.
This was a really great show; originally a webcast and mired in a bit of controversy when Verizon decided to censor a comment EV made about George W. I mention this in case you're interested in the comment (you hear something like it in bars all across America 2007) and to allow me to wonder if the original broadcast impacted the recording in some way. It seems much more compressed than PJ live show recordings I've purchased over the last six years. The playing is typically fantastic but some of the highs, and lows, seem to be missing (at least to my ears). Since it's an iTunes exclusive download it could be, and probably is, the loss of fidelity that comes along with that particular medium. I've purchased PJ downloads from Ten Club in the past and they seemed to have a bit more life to them. It could be that after a year or so of touring they became tighter than a Johnson glove and we're experiencing the fruits of that labor. Stone, Jeff and Matt are locked in throughout. If you want to hear PJ in all their glory grab hold of the DVD “Imagine in Cornice” and play it loud. You'll also be happy to know that proceeds from Live at Lollapalooza 2007 go to the Save the Music Foundation.