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“Pearl Jam Needs New Songs in Order to Hew an Exciting Concert Experience in 2018”

Once you incur the vista of Pitchfork “looking at Sublime’s most enduring work” in their basement laboratory (I assume they’re referring to canvas paintings or something, since they didn’t say “listening to” Sublime’s most enduring work), it sort of sets in that standards for music have lowered since, say, 1995, when even Soundgarden was considered in those hipster sectors as frat-boy co**-rock or whatever. So it’s no surprise that everybody is so gaga over Pearl Jam and their Wrigley Field-gracing histrionics (they’re slated for two more August dates there this year), despite the fact that anybody closely following this turgid entity of “Pearl Jam tour” in recent years knows that said cro-magnon is ambulating about without any strict set of identity.
Let’s start first with this whole “Baba O’ Riley” thing. “Baba O’ Riley” is a song by British classic rock band The Who that goes “teenage wasteland,” a song which Pearl Jam covers and features the lyrics “Out here in the fields / I fight for my meals… I don’t need to fight / To prove I’m right”. Wow, what could be better for a group of privileged white megastars pumping themselves with tired, worn old songs than a set of lyrics of this level of sheer awfulness? They get both the crowd and themselves jumping up and down, somebody busts out a tambourine, one band member puts an arm around another and hot doggie it’s just a hoe-down!
I must admit to having definitely liked this song by The Who the first about 10 times I heard it or so (it’s ironic because in Hype! it’s Vedder himself who’s so sure of the stymying malady of the overplayed). You could not find a more overplayed song in America than “Baba O’ Riley” this side of “Uptown Funk” or “Shake it off.”
So is it care-free glee, a sort of throw-it-over-your-shoulder mentality they’re going for here (they opened their 2017 Wrigley stint with “Baba”)? Well, no, because now in marches the laughably down and slow number “Low Light,” an albeit fairly affective and idyllic ditty on side b of the mastodon that is Yield, but hardly the type of thing that in concert setting will get casual Pearl Jam fans moving, or even keep them awake, for that matter. Then the wrist-slitting bazaar continues with the stately Ten closeur “Release” and Vs.’ mellow slab of adult acoustic-rock “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” (and I’m looking at the concert set list on setlist.fm, 08/20/2016, and not the Let’s Play Two compilation, which only features certain of these selections), before finally six songs in comes some kinetic energy in the form of “Do the Evolution,” which in my opinion benefits from getting put toward the end of the invincible Live on Two Legs.
So what can we expect from these upcoming Wrigley shows, besides a bunch of pompous Cubs fans with no regard for the Latino manager they ousted without spending any money on personnel for him in ’14? It doesn’t matter, dude! It’s the ‘90s, dude! Pearl Jam were a ‘90s band to a tee, as Live on Two Legs will indicate (add 2000’s Binaural produced by Tchad Blake but mixed by the great Brendan O’ Brien onto that though), today, almost, like Jordan’s invincible Bulls in a mid-season lull against the Dallas Mavericks, playing down to its competition, or its brainless, indiscriminately adulating fans, in this case.
Anyway, when you’re grooving toward plotting down the perfect ideal Pearl Jam set (and I do expect them to read my site and cotton on to my advice, dog gone it), you have to take lots of unfortunate things in consideration, such as are they going to actually give it the gusto live. Take for instance a song like “Thin Air,” off of 2000s Binaural which I mention before. As a studio track it’s poignant and purposeful from the start, featuring of several key changes, some pristine acoustic strumming and a classic one-note walking bass line from the great Jeff Ament, along with of course some classic Vedder crooning (though we learn from one of his introductions of the song that it’s actually Stone Gossard’s artistic handiwork). Sometimes in concert, even on the most prominent Youtube posting of this installment, they just don’t bring the full feeling, yet somehow in the studio recording environment Vedder did indeed apply a great range of emotion to the project.
But anyway, you can’t just apply basic common sense and think that the band will bring full firepower to a number like this, although since Vedder is such an obnoxiously huge Cubs fan, they maybe will.
So let’s treat the situation as if he will sing with conviction and some sort of true spirit will be summoned up here, whether it’s the spirit of Chicago (Vedder’s part-time childhood home and locale of “Light Years,” also off Binaural), the spirit of Pearl Jam themselves (they’ve also got a Seattle Safeco Field show booked for this year), the spirit of getting drunk off your a** (there’s a 7/11 “liquor” right across from Wrigley, home of the “bleacher creatures”), or whatever. I don’t see how it could possibly happen, because so much has changed in the U.S. Things like “Black Lives Matter” aren’t at all endorsed, obviously, on any of Pearl Jam’s extant material, and they arguably lack the expedited darkness of say an Imagine Dragons or even denizens of the indie world like Real Estate or Lower Dens. Even when I listen to “Light Years” now, one of my favorites of yore, it’s more like my left brain enjoys it, my right brain relegating it to times of my youth when I could sit back without getting sh** from everyone around me. But I know no one even pays attention to Pearl Jam anymore — they just pay attention to the ideal thereof.

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