Photo credit: Lance Mercer
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say Pearl Jam wanted to make a career spanning live album, and give the fans the option to nominate, vote, and pick all the tracks to go on this one disc, 18 track, live album. This album will be similar to the Pearl Jam live releases “Live On Two Legs” and “Live On Ten Legs” however, it will be a career expansive track list, hence… “Live On All Legs” (so original!)
With the majority of every show in Pearl Jam’s history recorded, either by an audience recording, by the band professionally, or a radio recording (and there is no telling what other treasures lie in Pearl Jam’s infamous “vault”), Pearl Jam is probably one of the only bands that could be able to pull this off. After brainstorming this idea, and after much research and some very difficult decisions, I have narrowed down my 18 favorite live tracks that I would nominate to go on this album, taking into account many different aspects including band performance, crowd enthusiasm, and quality of the recordings. You can stream most of these tracks, however all tracks are available to download with the links provided.
Live On All Legs Tracklist:
1. “Of The Girl”
St. Louis MO
October 11th, 2000
“Of The Girl”, often used as an opener during the 2000 tour is a great way to begin the evening. This version in particular stands out with some great guitar effects and fantastic transitions.
2. “In My Tree”
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
July 8th, 2003
This revamped version of this progressive No Code classic is truly a live standout. Switching it up by opening with the main guitar line instead of the rhythmic drumming approach gives “In My Tree” a much different and fresh feel. Adding a keyboard solo by Boom Gasper during the bridge brings out another surprising element.
3. “Even Flow”
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
July 8th, 2003
One thing about the track “Even Flow” is if you go to a Pearl Jam show, this is one of the only songs you will almost be assured to hear. For many of the Pearl Jam fans who have seen multiple shows, this is one many would say they could do without. But there is one aspect of “Even Flow” everyone wants to hear and that of course is the Mike McCready guitar solo, Why? It’s always different, always amazing, and it gives McCready the chance to do what he does best… melt your face. Of all the live performances of “Even Flow,” this one in particular, McCready not only gives you one amazing guitar solo, he gives you two, smoothly changing the solo in equally incredible fashion. He even surprises his fellow band mate Stone Gossard who almost loses his concentration because McCready was in such a zone (as evident on the DVD release Pearl Jam, Live at the Garden).
4. “In Hiding”
St. Louis MO
July 2nd 1998
I don’t know what it is about this particular evening, but three tracks from my list came from this show. I believe it’s one of Pearl Jam’s most underrated shows in their 24 year history. Mike McCready was on fire this evening, providing amazing solos on almost every track he could fit one in and Eddie Vedder’s voice was nothing short of stellar. Their longtime producer, Brenden O’Brein was on hand for this show so it could have given the band a little motivation to show him a good time. The band sounded amazing that night, and this version of “In Hiding” is their best ever, Vedder absolutely nailing the chorus is the highlight of this one.
5. “Nothing As It Seems”
May 30, 2000
This live version of “Nothing As It Seems”, the first single off the album Binaural is again layered with amazing guitar lines and solo’s from guitarist Mike McCready. McCready does something different in the beginning of this track by adding a thick slice of distortion to the intro giving this cut quite a bit more flavor. Some of the video versions of “Nothing as It Seems” are better to watch, but when comparing sound alone, this one is tops.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
June 14, 2008
This is a extremely chilling version of this V.S. classic. Bonnaroo 2008 was one of the bands most superlative festival appearances. Lead guitarist Mike McCready adds on a layer of psychedelic guitar lines to accompany Eddie, Stone, Jeff, and Matt’s flawless performance. The band doesn’t play this one much, but this night it became a Pearl Jam live career highlight.
St. Louis, MO
July 2nd, 1998
You can definitely sense the crowd reaction to the surprise elements of this track. The Improv gives a great feel of anticipation, and when the band kicks into the heavy guitar driven track “Habit” it’s absolutely phenomenal. This is Pearl Jam at their best.
April 3rd, 1994
A very impressive take on “Garden” from the classic album “Ten”. The band are in tune with each-other and Eddie’s voice is stellar. The sound of the Fox Theater is also fantastic. Guitarist Mike McCready playing a great bluesy solo and guitarist Stone Gossard being a steady rhythmic compliment is really what sets this version apart.
9. “Betterman/Save it for Later”
St. Louis, MO
July 2nd, 1998
For this version of “Betterman” and the fairly typical tag of “Save it for Later” by English Beat, Vedder and the rest of the band feed off each other perfectly bringing this version to new heights. Vedder’s voice is flawless with the “Save it for Later” tag which is the definite highlight of this Vitalogy classic.
Drop in the Park
Warren G. Magnuson Park
September 20, 1992
Early live Pearl Jam in all its glory, with this version of “Porch” being one of their most adrenaline fueled ever. The hard hitting drums of former drummer Dave Abbruzzese are a force to be reckoned with and Eddie Vedder singing the lyrics to Rollins Band “Tearing” while the band is raging behind him brings this version to new levels. Full of surprising tempo changes and heavy collaborative jamming, this version of “Porch” shows the world how well each band member can anticipate the other member’s every move. “Porch” is great add to any Pearl Jam setlist, but this one is a definite standout.
11. “Mind Your Manners”
October 14th, 2014
The first heavy hitting single from Pearl Jam’s latest effort Lightning Bolt hits even harder with this live version; Vedder sounds better than ever and the band is completely on point.
GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater
Virginia Beach, Virginia
September 7, 1998
“Black” is and probably always will be a crowd favorite. Off the Pearl Jam classic album Ten, it’s a track that is played often live and unlike “Even Flow”, it seems to be something everyone is excited to hear. In this version, the band strums through as the track builds into a progressive climax. Again, a highlight is lead guitarist Mike McCready, he is keyed in with the other members of the band and pushes the guitar solo to unfamiliar reaches.
13. “Crazy Mary”
Mountain View, CA
June 1, 2003
Pearl Jam is known for their amazing performances, but one aspect of the live performance that is sometimes overlooked is their touring B3 organist and session keyboardist, Boom Gasper. Boom’s talent shines through on Pearl Jam’s best take of the Victoria Williams track “Crazy Mary.” The highlight of this version is when McCready and Gasper jump into a guitar/keyboard duel towards the end of the track, making this a must listen.
14. “Daughter / The Wrong Child / Romance”
August 7th, 2000
This is a pretty typical live cut of Daughter, but Eddie Vedder being Eddie Vedder finds a way to make it more special as the track builds into another stellar tag. At some point, maybe during soundcheck, Eddie discovered that Phillips Arena had a very distinct echo in which he could use to his advantage in the performance. Vedder utilizes his profound voice and the sound features of the arena to make his voice uniquely echo and reverberate throughout the entire arena, and it is also distinctly evident in the recording. You might want to grab a jacket before you listen, because Vedder’s vocal performance may give you chills.
15. “Red Mosquito”
Austin City Limits Music Festival
October 4th, 2009
When in attendance of a Pearl Jam show you never really know what is going to happen, such as with the Austin City Limits Festival in 2009. Ben Harper came out as a special guest to play a little slide guitar and along with McCready playing his style of bluesy guitar solo on the other side, this tandem was really a spectacle to behold.
16. Parting Ways
St. Louis, Missouri
October 11th, 2000
“Parting Ways” is a live rarity and this is their best version. McCready’s use of guitar effects in this performance is fantastic. “Parting Ways” is a great way to close out a set or an encore, and this particular evening in St. Louis was right on point, with McCready seemingly channeling other worldly elements.
17. “Fuckin’ Up”
April 12, 1994
The band ending a set or encore with this classic Neil Young cover is always a treat. With this one, PJ brings down the house with an incredible jam session closing out an epic night in Boston. Vedder was in good spirits and motivated the crowd to ‘stand up!’ Again, this is Pearl Jam at their best.
18. “Yellow Ledbetter/Star Spangled Banner”
May 24, 2009
The typical show closer of “Yellow Ledbetter” is always given a boost when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played Hendrix style by axe master Mike McCready. This night in particular, with the house lights on, it was a perfect cap to a perfect evening in Chi-town.
This list is very subjective and ones opinion (how can a persons opinion be wrong!). There are many other great live recordings of these tracks and other tracks not on this list which you can download any track mentioned here and the majority of others before 2008 at www.gremmie.net for free; everything 2008 to present can be purchased at www.pearljam.com.
What would your Live On All Legs look like? Feel free to post in the comments below.
Hear all these tracks plus many other great Pearl Jam live cuts at Rock Show Radio’s Alternative Nation Radio.