Words On Words

Published in The Miami Herald on August 11, 2000



There was a bit of a tailgate party going on in the MARS Music Amphitheater
parking lot Wednesday night. Rather than ribs and chicken wings, the
attendant SUVs, minivans and the like were cooking up Pearl Jam's first
album, Ten, vintage 1991.

Anyone expecting to hear the band's latest release, Binaural, or any of its
immediate predecessors, would have been disappointed, as the debut
collection uncannily echoed throughout the lot.

Onstage, however, it was another story. The night's set was drawn mainly
from later albums, with a few exceptions. The sold-out audience didn't seem
to mind. They responded predictably upon recognizing anything familiar from
radio airplay.

Frontman Eddie Vedder wore white. The rest of the band - guitarists Stone
Gossard and Mike McCready, bassist Jeff Amnet, and the latest drummer,
ex-Soundgarden percussionist Matt Cameron - could have slipped into the
audience unnoticed.

Some critics fault Pearl Jam's compositional abilities, citing their uneven
and somewhat repetitious oeuvre. In fact, there was a lack of textural
variety in Wednesday night's set. The songs from Binaural, including
"Breakerfall" and "Nothing As It Seems" were nearly identical to the recorded

Pearl Jam may be something of a throwback in these days of samples, ersatz
rock hip hop and electronica, but there was nothing iconoclastic or
anachronistic about their performance. The playing was fresh and energetic
and they clearly fed off the crowd's enthusiasm

But such journeyman work deserves presentation equal to the performance.
It's a little surprising, given Vedder's adulation of The Who's Pete
, that he hasn't steered Pearl Jam toward a bigger, or at least
fuller concert presence.