Live At The Gorge 05/06
Monkey Wrench, 2007
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/13/2007
At one point near the end of the July 22, 2006 show captured in this box set, Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder thanks some of the early supporters of the band, those who had been cheering the guys on "back when we wrote incredibly shitty songs."
The crowd booes, but cheers wildly when the band launches into one of those songs, the funk workout "Dirty Frank," which has been slightly overhauled to sound like an early Red Hot Chili Peppers tune and which concerns a bus driver who likes eating people, a joke on a former tour driver for the band.
In fact, the fans are rewarded constantly with the band's early work across these three concerts, which span seven CDs and comprise the Sept. 1, 2005, July 22, 2006 and July 23, 2006 shows at the Gorge in Washington, not far from the band's Seattle roots.
The three shows could be seen as a best-of revue, but the large amount of non-album and deep track material, not to mention the popular covers, makes this more of a reward for the hometown crowd. Of course, "Alive" and "Jeremy" make appearances here, as do two elongated versions of "Black" and an incredible performance of "Even Flow," featuring the best drum and guitar solos this song has ever seen.
But, again, it's the offbeat stuff that gets the crowd going. "Wash" and "Dirty Frank," both B-sides, appear here, as do the Vs. deep cuts "Leash," "Blood" and "Rats." Even songs from Ten that aren't normally heard are here, such as "Garden" and "Why Go," and the Mother Love Bone gem "Crown Of Thorns" appears twice (Pearl Jam was formed from the remnants of MLB; Vedder always said he wanted to sing a song of Andrew Wood's, and it turns out this was the one).
Although it retails for just over $30 in most markets -- a steal for seven discs -- this box set will primarily appeal to the hardcore fans, which is what it's aimed at. One also could make a case for why this set was released when there is so much live material already out there, and the answer is that it's more than just the like location linking the sets. It's the appreciation of the crowd, the high level of energy and love of performing that ensures Pearl Jam will not go gently (gotta love double/triple encores).
Because two shows are from 2006, Pearl Jam's eponymous eighth album is represented well on them, with nearly every song making an appearance. While none of the songs are as mind-blowing as the early work, they fit comfortably into the set, particularly the ripping "World Wide Suicide," the beautiful "Inside Job" and the punk workout "Comatose."
The September 2005 show is the longest, encompassing three discs and touching on pretty much everything the band has done. Live warhorses like "Do The Evolution," "Not For You," "Daughter" and "Yellow Ledbetter" appear, as do incendiary covers of "Crazy Mary" and "Baba O'Riley." The middle of the set is the most interesting, encompassing rarities like "Alone," "Sad," "Undone" and "In My Tree," an obscure song from No Code. The Singles soundtrack tune "State Of Love And Trust" pops up as well, though in this case the studio version has more fire.
So much material is scattered across the July shows that it's tough to touch on all of it, but there are extremely few clunkers. Guitarist Mike McCready shines throughout, particularly on Neil Young's "Fuckin' Up," Hendrix's "Little Wing" and the aforementioned "Even Flow." Fans will appreciate hearing rare live versions of "Satan's Bed," "Green Disease" and "God's Dice" from the July 23 show, as well as "Footsteps," "Down" and "Insignificance" from the July 22 outing.
Granted, this is a lot of Pearl Jam, and the only thing keeping it from being essential is the material that overlaps the many, many live releases on the market. Few of the usual songs are revelatory, yet all of the music is performed admirably, energetically and with love. Even better, Vedder talks to the crowd, joking with them, making political stands, ribbing Tom Petty (who was in the area) and thanking the fans consistently.
It's quite the reward for fans, who are among the most loyal of any rock band still alive, and quite the introduction for those new to the band. Live At The Gorge is pretty much all the live Pearl Jam a person will ever need, but time listening to the box set is time well spent.