Pearl Jam immortality imminent

May 28, 2006


Rock 'n' roll is at its best when it's a spirited discourse between people who care passionately about the music, and to that end, this column occasionally dives into the mailbag for a sampling of feedback from its readers. Here's the latest installment.

After reading your review of Pearl Jam at the United Center [May 18], I felt compelled to ask: Aren't you being a bit harsh on the band? I attended Wednesday night's show and thought they did an outstanding job. The audience seemed to enjoy the hell out it, and even the band seemed to be having a good time -- a rare combination in my years of attending concerts.

It is 2006, not 1994 nor 1995. Perhaps they can't achieve "the sheer physicality" of those years because, gee, the band members are 11 or 12 years older. And perhaps Eddie Vedder is playing more guitar these days because he's aging, along with the rest of the band, as well as their fans; the idea of thrashing himself into a lather or diving into a mosh pit probably holds as little appeal to Mr. Vedder as it does to my 40-year-old self.

What little I know about art is that true talent needs to take chances in order to grow and continue. If a painter keeps creating the same painting, or a novelist keeps writing the same sort of book over and over, critics call them hacks. Without any gamble art ceases to be art. Pearl Jam has had the guts to defy expectations, and granted, it hasn't always worked. But I have far more respect for that approach than other musicians who deliver the same product year after year simply because it "works" and guarantees a consistent payoff.

Glen A. Moore


If your review is accurate, how do explain the continued success of this band all over the world, not just the United States? You didn't like [Pearl Jam's] "meandering jams"; did you ever actually listen to an album or did you just catch the hits on MTV? Their first album was cherished for those meandering jams in songs like "Oceans" and "Release." Nothing can touch "Ten," but would you wear the jeans that made you look hot when you were 19 if, now, you were 35? Be realistic! The band has matured and evolved and their fan base (which is monstrous) has too. What are you a Slipknot fan or something?

Jennine Gorman


Comparing fans of Pearl Jam with the Grateful Dead is like comparing fans of the Bulls and the Grateful Dead. Bulls fans love the Bulls, even though they are awful and lost to the Wizards last year with home court advantage, but yet they still come to the games and cheer.

Brian McGuire


Just watch what happens in the next 20 years. You wouldn't have written a story like this if the Dead comparison wasn't absolutely true. Pearl Jam is this generation's Dead. Generation X'ers grew up with Pearl Jam and they are the only ones that are still around. You absolutely feel nostalgia towards music you had your first kiss, first love, first heartbreak, teen angst, first drive, first everything to ... That's what Pearl Jam is to people in their 20s to 30s. If they stick together, and I will bet anything they will, as they release new albums, our kids will want to come on tour, too.

Julie Smolyansky


I've seen Pearl Jam twice, once opening for Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the other time at Lollapalooza. They used to be great. I have to say last night's show was a MAJOR disappointment. What I saw was a bunch of aging men going through the motions. There was absolutely no passion, and I felt like they were more of a bar band.

Eddie Vedder sounded pretty good on "Release," but went down after that. Matt Cameron, who I consider one of the best drummers in rock 'n' roll, was kind of soft. He seemed like a zombie behind his drums. Mike McCready was the only one in the band who seemed to have some enthusiasm, but he looked like Keith Richards imitating Jimi Hendrix. Playing his guitar behind his neck? Come on! The next tour will have two female back-up singers I bet. I think this band has been stagnant since they released "Vitalogy," and haven't grown into a great arena band.

Michael S. Kaplan


I just read your Pearl Jam review and I couldn't agree with you more. You pretty much nailed it, especially when you said "often sloppy, lackluster or generic sounds generated on stage." You were correct when characterizing it as "a long, long night" unnecessarily filled with "annoyingly self-indulgent, unfurling endless high register 'wheedle wheedle wheedle' solos rather than the impressive rhythm-guitar pummelings of old." I did, however, really enjoy the green lasers, which I first saw at the Bob Seger/Foghat concert in 1976.

Ira Kleinmuntz