This summer, America’s premier grunge-leftover band Pearl Jam will be performing for one night only in Arras, France (one stop on their 2012 U.S. and European tour). This band has been around for twenty-one (yes, twenty-one) years, not to the surprise of any of their long-time aficionados, of which I am Number One. (I once drove over a thousand miles to hear them play. Seriously, I did this in 2008 with my then teen daughter. Am I a cool mom or what?)
Anyway, twenty-one years may not sound like a long time when you’re talking about art. But in the world of rock music artistry, it’s forever. Most alternative bands have long-since burnt out or at least haven’t churned out many serious tunes since their heyday in the 1990’s.
But not Pearl Jam. Their most recent compilation Backspacer was released in 2009, and just last year Pearl Jam Twenty graced theaters, bookshelves, and music stores. Those are just the latest in a string of noteworthy releases that spans two decades.
My poignant love affair with Pearl Jam began way back in 1991 (long before Pearl Jam and I hit middle age) when I first heard the song “Black.” Eddie Vedder’s baritone haunts like no other voice. Not only does he sing and play guitar, but he also writes songs that express every human emotion–multifarious songs as dissimilar as Thoreau’s cabin and Baudelaire’s spleen. His voice, his words, his music have the power to make a soul fall in love with being alive. Wow. And he’s not the only songwriter who contributes to the band’s repertoire. All of the band’s members are writers as well: Mike McCready (lead axe–boy, can he make a guitar sing!); Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar); Jeff Ament (bass); Matt Cameron (drums–yes, that would be the Matt Cameron of Soundgarden–who, by the way, are coming to Paris May 29!); and (since 2002) Boom Gaspar (ivories).
I am happy to report that driving a thousand miles won’t be necessary for all you music lovers in Paris who want a piece of Pearl Jam. Just head north about two hours on June 30 and voilà-Arras, France and Pearl Jam. Is there anything better than hearing Pearl Jam play live? Well, maybe hearing them play live in my living room, but that probably won’t happen on this tour.