Live On Two Legs

Pearl Jam

Epic Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Pearl Jam was born to be a live act. The group's high-energy numbers and frontman Eddie Vedder's charisma made Pearl Jam, one of the hottest acts in the '90s. As a matter of fact, Pearl Jam holds the record for the maximum number of live albums released in the history of music by a single artist/act. However, of those 80-odd discs, Live On Two Legs is the band's most comprehensive live record, containing the best of its '98 tour.

This is undoubtedly an amazing record, containing most of the crowd favorites up to that point, notably "Evenflow," "Daughter," "Better Man," "Go," and "Black." Topping this off, Live has two new songs, "Untitled," which acts as an excellent prelude to "MFC," and "Fuckin' Up," a Neil Young number that closes the album and pays tribute to the band's major influence.

There are some live performers who talk a lot, and for whom crowd interaction is a big part of the show. But there are others who are not too big on connecting with the crowd with speeches during a live show. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Live is a straightforward album with one track after another, without much interruption by the lead singer to cut a conversation with the crowd. Of course, in later years, Vedder would get rather political on stage, but none of that surfaces here.

However, when Vedder does talk he introduces certain songs to the crowd, and they are priceless for their sheer spontaneity. Just after the extended version of "Daughter," Vedder introduces the next song as, "The longest title in the Pearl Jam catalog, 'Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town,'" before strumming his acoustic six-string. Vedder repeats his sexy song-introducing skill after "Nothingman" and before "Do The Evolution" as, "That's an old song; this is a new song. It's evolution, baby!"

In this album of many memorable moments, the one that stands out the most is the extended version of "Daughter." As intended to be, the song is slowly drowned till there is nothing left of it, but unlike the original version, the song slowly rises as Vedder starts singing verses from "W.M.A.," and the track develops into a psychedelic show of echoing guitars reverberating from all over the venue that go on for sometime before the song finally ends, after almost seven minutes.

Considering Pearl Jam's reputation as a stellar live act and the kind of hits that are present on this disc, listening to Live should be an out-of-this-world experience. But there are moments on this album where the live tracks just cannot reproduce the punch of their studio avatars. "Black," "Evenflow," and "Go," cuts that are intended to be best enjoyed live, sound kind of weak despite Vedder's virtuosic singing performance.

Live also marks the debut of ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. His performance on the disc is a bit of a letdown; though the drumming is impeccable, it is too straightforward compared to the entangled drumming patterns Cameron is known to skillfully strike from his days with Soundgarden.

Pearl Jam can never release a perfect live disc, and they are to be blamed for it. A band this good is bound to set expectations on a live disc that are almost impossible to fulfill, and while Live is an awesome disc, the group's studio-work is far better.

Rating: B+

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