Somewhere back in time when I started this blog I mentioned that I was toying with a post on the ultimate Pearl Jam set-list.
Pearl Jam live are a wonderful thing. Gallingly, though, I’ve only seen them live once. They seem to have now joined the list of great bands that consider playing at Milton Keynes and Leeds as a UK tour – what happened to the rest of the country? – and have given up playing at Wembley Arena (where I saw them on the Binaural tour).
A year or so back I read a great piece that stated: “Pearl Jam is known as one of the best live acts in its arena-filling weight class. After only fitfully listening to new Pearl Jam albums for more than a decade, seeing the band live reignited my interest in listening to them again. Pearl Jam will remain interesting to people for as long as it is able to tour.”
I genuinely believe that there’s not many acts that can touch them live in terms of quality, consistency and pure excitement. And, while I’m unlikely to be in the audience any time soon (their 25th Anniversary trek this year is limited to US/Canadian shows) there’s still plenty of opportunity to enjoy them live thanks to the unusual decision they took back in 2000 – the same tour I caught them on – to release an “official bootleg” of every (with a couple of exceptions) show to offer fans the opportunity to get a good-quality audio of each concert for a reasonable price.
Now…. given how many shows they play a year and that it’s been going for close to 16 years… that’s a lot of shows to choose from. I’m gob-smacked at the idea that some people own the lot.
I’ve got…. a few. Physically; just the show that I attended. I can always claim I’m on a Pearl Jam album that way.
On the iPod, however… well that’s a different story.
There’s probably a dozen or so. Some purchased legitimately and others… in the truer nature of Bootlegs. And each one of them is different and worth having in their own right. See, the thing is I got given the amazing PJ20 book one year – along with the DVD and soundtrack – and there’s mention of so many great shows that it’s impossible not to at least check some of the more significant ones out. Like the 2003 show in Uniondale when the band were heckled for their performance of Bushleaguer:
Which pisses Vedder off so much it’s apparent in the cover of The Clash’s Know Your Rights that follows.
I also have the trio of shows they played at the Tweeter Center in Boston that same year where they used the opportunity to play every song they’d played on the tour to at that point over the course of the three shows; 82 originals and 12 covers with only one repeat….
But to get to the original point; I’ve been hunting for that recording that, to me, represents the ultimate set list.
Back in 2012 (pre-Lightning Bolt), Eddie Vedder let a fan club contest winner choose the setlist for a show. Now the set that Brian Farias – for it was he – chose was pretty good. He even managed to get Vedder to play Bugs for only the second time. But it’s a big challenge, really… how to find the right balance.
I, for example, would want to hear a lot of deeper cuts. But then, looking back at the quote up top of this ramble, how would that play at a show when not all in attendance know every Pearl Jam song. So you do have to mix in the ‘hits’ as it were and – while I don’t always listen to it – Better Man always gets the crowd going and becomes something else live than on record.
Then there’s the case that Pearl Jam don’t do Greatest Hits tours and are usually touring in support of a new album. So what of the newer songs make the grade and still manage to keep the crowd going. In all honesty I wouldn’t really pluck a show from the Backspacer tour because I don’t really feel a lot of tracks from that album worked in that context.
Lightning Bolt, however, was a much stronger effort and there was a lot of stuff I was itching to hear live. Factor in the fact that the band were in great shape and playing better than ever, there’s a lot of gems to be found in the Lightning Bolt tour bootlegs.
So I think I’ve now been able to find the ‘perfect’ set list / bootleg. Well, sort of. Because there’s two.
Worchester, MA, October 15th 2013 is a 32 song strong set that packs in Leash (not as ferocious as I’d love to hear it played but I’ve yet to find a recording that does play it quite as strong as it could be and this one has a great story that precedes it), Red Mosquito and Man of the Hour along with newer cuts like Swallowed Hole and Infallible along with the tour-set-list regulars Mind Your Manners and Sirens. The energy picks up after a quieter start and there’s a great performance of Nothing As It Seems, Fatal gets a play in the first Encore and Crazy Mary makes an appearance. Oh, and Last Kiss.
(I love the moment at about 1:35 where someone realises it’s Leash and gives a joyous yelp)
Set: Release, Long Road, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Lightning Bolt, Mind Your Manners, Hail, Hail, Sirens, Even Flow, Nothing As it Seems, Swallowed Whole, Red Mosquito, Whipping, Corduroy, Infallible, Got Some, Save You, Leash, Let The Records Play,
Do The Evolution, Better Man.
Encore 1: Man Of The Hour, Yellow Moon, Fatal, Just Breathe, Spin The Black Circle, Unthought Known, Porch.
Encore 2: Last Kiss, Crazy Mary, Alive, Sonic Reducer, Indifference.
Meanwhile the tour closer at the Key Arena in Seattle on December 3rd finds the band in an even stronger form, the energy is high and they’re playing to a home-crowd. So tracks like Let Me Sleep, In My Tree and Pilate get pulled out, there’s better banter, Breath, State of Love and Trust, a story from Ed of how he was nearly lost at sea, Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns, Pendulum opens and Mike McCready playing Van Halen’s Eruption into Yellow Ledbetter brings the show to a close after 37 songs.
Turns out there’s a video of the whole show ‘out there’ which I’ll leave here as long as it lasts:
Set: Pendulum, Nothingman, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town, Interstellar Overdrive, Corduroy, Lightning Bolt, Mind Your Manners, Given To Fly, Pilate, Garden, Getaway, Even Flow, Sirens, In My Tree, Do The Evolution, Unthought Known, Black, Let The Records Play
Spin The Black Circle, Lukin, Better Man.
Encore 1: After Hours, Let Me Sleep,Future Days, Daughter, Chloe Dancer, Crown Of Thorns, Breath, State Of Love And Trust, Porch.
Encore 2: Supersonic, Got Some, Rearviewmirror, Alive, Kick Out The Jams, Eruption, Yellow Ledbetter.
So yeah; I think, between those two it’s as close to a perfect set-list / show recording as you’ll get. A good mix of the deeper cuts, the crowd pleasures, strong new material and plenty of Vedder’s stories and not a heckle in ear-shot.
Although I’ve not yet heard the show with No Code played in full or…..