Top 10: Pearl Jam covers

I'm stoked. The only grunge band that still matters, Pearl Jam, announced late yesterday an East Coast tour that will bring them, with Kings of Leon, to the the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, June 12. If you were a teen in the early '90s, chances are Pearl Jam made an impression on you. At age 14, they were my favorites. In eighth grade I wore a black Pearl Jam Ten T-shirt — the one with the stick figure on the front and piece of legal-pad paper on the back — at least once a week. Pearl Jam and I had a falling out in my mid-20s; just wasn't feeling the whole hard rock, introspection thing. But in recent years, I catch myself going back to their CDs quite often, perhaps it's a nostalgia thing, perhaps it's just that Pearl Jam is the best rock band to come along in the last two decades save for maybe Radiohead.

Anyway, the last time I saw Pearl Jam in concert was August of 2000 at the St. Pete Times Forum back when it was called the Ice Palace. That was during my wild college days and about three dozen of us met up for the show, swapped contraband and made our way into the venue just in time to catch the tail end of opener Sonic Youth's set. A few of my friends were flopping around like fish by the end of the night thanks to all the pre-partying but I had a well-calibrated buzz. My memories of Vedder taking slugs from a wine bottle in between singing his ass off are vivid. Pearl Jam turned in a mighty performance that evening.

Before becoming a critic, I never checked set lists online before attending shows — which is really the best way to attend shows but not a viable option if you're reviewing on deadline — so it was the Pearl Jam cover songs that night proved to be the most pleasant surprises. The band segued from "Daughter" into "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" and me and the other 15,000-or so in attendance gleefully sang along to the infamous chorus of "We don't need no education." Pearl Jam returned for three encores with the final being a rabble-rousing rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," a song I first became aware of when PJ and Young played it at the MTV Music Awards together in '93 (see clip below).

In 2000, Napster was alive and well. The day after the Pearl Jam show, I skipped class and went on a downloading frenzy, determined to find what other songs the band covered in concert. I still have burned CDs containing all those performances, which can be found on YouTube or the official "bootleg" discs Pearl Jam has released.

Top 10: Pearl Jam cover performances

1. "Rockin' in the Free World," Neil Young

2. "Baba O'Riley," The Who

3. "I Won't Back Down," Tom Petty

4. "Redemption Song," Bob Marley

5. "Let My Love Open the Door," Pete Townshend

6. "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Otis Redding

7. "One Step Up," Bruce Springsteen (I think the version I have is Vedder solo, pre-Pearl Jam, it's killer.)

8. "Fucking Up," Neil Young

9. "Everyday People," Sly and the Family Stone

10. "All Along the Watchtower," Bob Dylan



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