'And I'm still alive!'
Pearl Jam rocks 40,000 fans in sold-out Philadelphia, Pa.
Does anyone else long for 1992?
'92 was a year before teen pop and angry white rappers took over the airwaves. It was before coffee houses were money-making machines. It was even a time when the "Batman" films were still decent. The most missed thing about '92 however, is the music. Nirvana was blaring on the radio and Cameron Crowe's"Singles" glamorized the Seattle scene and gave Alice in Chains a hit single. And 40,000 people still prefer that to watching a big ship sink and hearing "I Want It That Way". This past weekend Pearl Jam, the last of the grunge bands, proved that when they played two sold-out nights in Philadelphia.
To understand Pearl Jam, one needs a bit of knowledge not only of the Seattle scene of the early '90s, but of classic rock. Pearl Jam is no longer a grunge band. Rather, the band has evolved to become one of the only real "rock bands" left. The band sounds more like The Who now than it does anyone else. Maybe that's why the band has stayed together so long and has not had the trouble bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden went through.
Granted, it has not been all fun and games for Pearl Jam. As the grunge scene started to fade in the late '90s, Pearl Jam decided to go a different route than some of its colleagues. After three albums, the band put out "No Code," a somewhat quiet and reflective album. Though this CD had its share of rocking songs, it did not sound like "Ten," Pearl Jam's debut and still most popular album. The record did not sell well, even though it was a wonderful, reflective album that showed evidence of influences such as The Who and the bands' friend, Neil Young.
After "No Code," Pearl Jam retooled, took some time off and came blasting back with "Yield" and this year's "Binaural." The band has regained popularity in recent years. Though not as high as in the early '90s, the last four years have been good for the band, which even produced its first number one single, the '50s remake, "Last Kiss." However, Pearl Jam has had its share of trouble on the charts as well. No, it was not drug use, suicide or many of the problems with current bands.
The band stopped touring in the mid '90s to take on Ticketmaster, arguing all the way to some of the nations highest courts that Ticketmaster gouged prices and were unfair to fans. Though the band's pleas did not stop Ticketmaster's pricing ways, it did show a band that's dedication to its fans to be unparalleled.
Pearl Jam also turned its back on MTV after winning Best Video of the Year in '92 for "Jeremy". It was a wise move, as a band such as Pearl Jam has too much class to be seen on a program such as TRL nowadays.
The biggest blow to the band happened this year. At a festival in Denmark, nine fans were killed when the crowd rushed the stage. The Danish police accused Pearl Jam, though quickly withdrew all accusations. Pearl Jam was so hurt by the incident that some wondered if they would ever tour again, much less stay together.
Thankfully, however, the band has gotten through the tragedy. On Sept. 1, Pearl Jam came roaring into nearby Philadelphia for the first of two shows. Never has a crowd been so delighted to see a band. The cheers were deafing, and the band responded. Between mixing rarities and popular songs, the band played a total of 27 songs, including hits like "Jeremy" and "Black". The band also did rare songs that fans cling to, such as "Crazy Mary" and the song from the film "Singles", "Breath". After performing for two hours and twenty minuets, Pearl Jam left tired yet pleased. The crowd left excited and mesmerized, for the band they just saw was stronger then ever.
The second night in Philadelphia felt more like a continuation of the first night's festivities then it did an individual show. Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam's lead singer, came out before the show and did two acoustic performances. After opener Sonic Youth ended, Pear Jam returned to play an even longer, 30-song night. Out of thirty songs, the band played only eight repeats from the first night. Pearl Jam ended its second show in Philadelphia by covering The Who's "Baba O'Reily" in a forceful tear through the song. The band behind the original would be proud.
After two nights, 59 songs, and sixty dollars for two shows, what does this say about Pearl Jam? It says that this is a band here to stay. While boy and girl bands dominate the radio, Pearl Jam plays music that matters. While Dave Matthews charges 50 bucks for his shows and justifies it to Rolling Stone by saying, "The economy is good, so our fans can afford it", Pearl Jam keeps fan club and seat prices at no more than $35. Pearl Jam is a band that cares about its fans, that makes music that will live on for years and that is dedicated to its work. Many have said the grunge era is dead. This may be true. Pearl Jam, the last band from those wonderful years, has more in common with Led Zeppelin now than it does with Soundgarden. Pearl Jam has become one of the great rock bands of all time.