As Pearl Jam had done for its 2000 North American tour, the band recorded and released every live show on its 2003 tour, except this time only releasing a couple shows to retail outlets, reserving the remaining shows for online sale. Live: 03-03-03 - Tokyo, Japan is one of those couple shows released to retail outlets, and it's indeed a wonderful showcase of Pearl Jam circa 2003 -- a fine-tuned, confident band that has oriented itself increasingly toward arena performances in lieu of the studio. As they'd done on their longwinded 2000 tour, Eddie Vedder and company pull out plenty of old favorites -- "Daughter," "Release," "Corduroy," "Dissident," "Not for You," "Breath," "Yellow Ledbetter" -- and infuse them with a fresh sense of passion and energy. These older songs tend to stand out, partly because they're so treasured by fans and partly because they're so anthemic and thus suited well for large arenas. This becomes most evident on the set closers: "Blood," "Rear View Mirror," and "Alive." The newer songs like "Hail, Hail," "Love Boat Captain," and "I Am Mine" aren't quite as sweeping, as they're more nuanced and fine-crafted than the generally fiery and impassioned older songs, yet they serve their purpose here well nonetheless, often serving as moments of curious respite. Perhaps the most curious moment comes during "Bu$hleaguer," a somewhat clumsy yet very pointed song that reflects Vedder's political attitude at the time (this show being recorded during the height of the Iraq crisis). Vedder the frontman also comes to the fore elsewhere, such as during the outro jam of "Daughter," where he ad libs the hook to Edwin Starr's "War" ("War, huh!/What is it good for?/Absolutely nothing"), and also during his several moments of Japanese speaking, which of course result in eruptive applause from the Tokyo audience. While many fans will presumably lump Pearl Jam's 2003 live recordings in with 2000's ones -- after all, they'd only released one album in the interim -- the band sounds much more impassioned and self-assured here, as if it had returned with something more to prove, perhaps that it's one of the best touring bands out there in the early '00s, or at least one of the most earnest. Any of Pearl Jam's 2003 recordings will showcase this to an extent, yet the Tokyo show is a particularly noteworthy one, if not simply for its retail availability, then for its political undertones as well as its emphasis on the older songs.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2