I hate Pearl Jam. I’ve spent many hours on my guitar trying to sound as good as Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. I gave up a long time ago trying to play the bass like Jeff Ament and I have as much chance of being a better drummer than Matt Cameron as I have of finding a voice like Eddie Vedder in my armpit. I find them sickeningly good and I can barely stand it.
Of course, I am joking about my ‘hatred’: I adore Pearl Jam. This year Pearl Jam has lined up a list of surprises to coincide with the 20th anniversary of its debut album, Ten. To kick things off comes the release of new live album, Live On Ten Legs. Recorded at various concerts during 2003-2010 and at 18 tracks long it’s a good collection of Pearl Jam songs with at least one track from all of its back catalogue (with the exception of No Code).
Right from the opening song, a cover of Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros‘ “Arms Aloft”, Eddie Vedder sounds great. His distinctive pained-growl is still evident and his voice on tracks “Yellow Ledbetter” and “World Wide Suicide” has possibly never sounded so good.
Pearl Jam fans won’t be disappointed, and indeed I wasn’t terribly, if only to hear something new from the band. Classic songs like “Animal,” “Jeremy,” and “Rearview Mirror” sound vibrant and every word is backed up by the audiences which are found in good voice. Matt Cameron’s drumming is a joy to listen to, especially on “Spin The Black Circle” and “State Of Love And Trust.”
However, I hoped, expected, to be hit with the energy and excitement of a live Pearl Jam show but I couldn’t find it. I have listened to Live With Ten Legs several times, hoping I was wrong but I just can’t find the life that the great live albums have that charges at you from the speakers. It’s such a shame that the twin guitars of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are so low in the mix that its hard to hear them clearly and it all sounds a bit muddy.
Newcomers might not wish to pursue the rest of Pearl Jam’s catalogue after listening to this, which during the anniversary year of its finest hour would be a great shame. I felt it lacked the spark that Pearl Jam possesses, but would still be of interest to Pearl Jam fans. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me feel Alive.