Pearl Jam

Live: 05-03-03 - State College, Pennsylvania

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For the final show of the first leg of their 2003 North American tour (Live: 05-03-03 - State College, Pennsylvania), Pearl Jam go for broke. They play a marathon three-plus hour set that includes all their live favorites -- over half of the Ten album as well as "Corduroy," "RVM," "Daughter," "Betterman," and "Yellow Ledbetter" -- and they also include a number of surprises. Most notably, Eddie Vedder plays a two-song solo acoustic set of John Lennon songs -- "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Gimme Some Truth" -- and Pearl Jam close the show with a few covers: Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary," Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," and Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." Furthermore, the band jams liberally on a number of songs, including a seven-minute "Even Flow," eight-minute "Black" and "Crazy Mary," nine-minute "RVM" and "Daughter," and ten-minute "Betterman," "Porch," and "Rockin' in the Free World" -- all of which boast fiery guitar soloing and occasional improvisation. As at most of the 2003 shows, Vedder infuses his between-song rhetoric with a heavily political slant, not necessarily anti-Bush but certainly liberal, the covers of "Gimme Some Truth" and "Fortunate Son" being quite emblematic of this attitude. This State College show sprawls on and on, becoming increasingly freewheeling toward the show's conclusion, where the song structures loosen and Vedder grows increasingly vocal and charismatic. Pearl Jam fans will undoubtedly love this show, even if it's relatively casual at times and heavily unbalanced, laden with the aforementioned live favorites rather than more contemporary material. It's a fittingly spirited finale to a spirited trek across America during a spirited time by a spirited band led by an especially spirited frontman.

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