Pearl Jam announce two UK dates
Two decades on from the rise of grunge, the genre’s superstars are at a peak. Pearl Jam are still harnessing the energy and creativity that brought them to prominince in the 1990s, as Jon Wiederhorn explains…
A little over 20 years ago, Pearl Jam were on top of the world and unravelling like a poorly-sewn flannel shirt.
On October 19, 1993 the band released their second album, Vs. It sold 1.3 million copies within 10 days and topped the US chart for five weeks. Vocalist Eddie Vedder featured on the cover of Time without consenting to an interview; the more they tried to avoid the mainstream, the more it followed them. Some band members drank heavily, others withdrew.
“It felt like we could break up at any time,” guitarist Mike McCready says from his Seattle home, back from a day’s paddle-boarding in the Puget Sound. “That’s why we stopped doing videos – we didn’t want to be totally overexposed. But the record company wanted us everywhere, and there were trust issues within the band and questions about authenticity. We actually had to sit down and say: ‘Hey, do you still want to be in the band, Ed? Do we still want to do this? Is this fun for us?’ It was a weird, scary time.”
That’s when Pearl Jam established the unofficial code that’s kept them relatively well-adjusted ever since. Instead of allowing the seas of change to carry them like shells, they decided to call the shots themselves. Their deadlines would be self-imposed, they would partake in side projects and do very little press (Vedder maintained radio silence for this piece).
Fast-forward to 2013 and Pearl Jam are the only major Seattle band that haven’t broken up or lost their mainstream following. They’ve outlasted and outsold Nirvana, Soundgarden (with whom they share drummer Matt Cameron) and Alice In Chains. They remain one of the most popular touring bands on the circuit, outselling contemporary acts that sell far more albums.
Vedder may not climb lighting trusses and dangle 30 feet above the stage like in the early 90s, but Pearl Jam have grown as musicians. With the release of new full-length Lightning Bolt, they have 10 albums of material to draw from. Their concerts are often over two hours long and feature radically different sets, leading to comparisons to classic jam band the Grateful Dead.
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