A quarter-century after the grunge explosion, Pearl Jam is the one outfit still standing without having ever broken up, losing any members to a premature death and, most importantly, without compromising their musical identity. If anything, when it comes to the latter, they’ve only gotten more durable.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Seattle band known for the hits “Daughter,” “Alive” and "Jeremy” are nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. They are almost certain to be inducted at the ceremony next year, and if there any doubt as to why, here are five reasons they should be entered into the hallowed hall…
Rose Above Early Detractors
Despite having their Seattle roots as deep as or deeper than any of their contemporaries, with bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard having both been in local legends Green River and Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam was initially eyed with some suspicion. Much of it was due to singer Eddie Vedder being an outsider, hailing from San Diego, and Nirvana vocalist Kurt Cobain having less than kind things to say about him. Putting their head down and moving ahead, the band weathered any questions about their convictions until it became a blip in their history.
Respect for Their Influences
Rarely are acts – especially at the level Pearl Jam has attained – so openly ardent in respect to their influences. It’s one thing to break out Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” on occasion, but to make it a setlist staple is quite another. Add that to routine the love they've shown to songs by the Who, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and a dozen others, and it goes beyond a simple homage; there’s a flat-out dedication to the musical lineage which inspired the band.
The videos for “Alive,” “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” played a major role in the massive success of Pearl Jam’s debut, Ten. The band thought the medium may have done a bit too much in terms of overexposing them, and decided not to make any for the follow-up, Vs., which still shot up the charts and sold millions of copies. It wouldn’t be until 1998 when the group would release another video for the song “Do the Evolution" from their fifth album, Yield, and even that wouldn’t feature them in it – it was animated by Todd McFarlane among others.
Everyone knows Ticketmaster price gouges and adds a bunch of extra charges to their tickets – but the only one who stepped up and did something about it was Pearl Jam. In 1994, they filed a complaint against the corporate giant, alleging that it was impossible to keep ticket prices low due to trumped up service fees. They stuck to their guns as long as possible, but were all alone in the fight. Attempting to play only non-Ticketmaster venues crippled their ability to perform in front of American fans. The battle should’ve come to an end when the Department of Justice stopped pursuing the anti-trust allegations, yet Pearl Jam stubbornly held out in an attempt to lead a revolution that never came before caving and eventually using Ticketmaster again. They tried, though, and what other artists can say that?
Most of the major arena and stadium bands stick to the same setlist, maybe varying it by a song or two each night, but keeping the core intact. But when it comes to Pearl Jam, there’s a great sense of the unknown before each concert, and it’s not just the setlist, but also the length. Vedder has led them through some epic live benders, like the 47-song strong Mansfield, Mass. gig in 2003 or the current title holder, Halloween 2009 in Philadelphia at the last concert performed at the Spectrum, which ran nearly four hours and included the guys donning Devo outfits and playing “Whip It.”