Pearl Jam are one of the most important acts of their generation. Formed in Seattle in 1990, their most famous lineup comprises frontman Eddie Vedder, guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron of Soundgarden fame. Delivering a style of hard rock with one eye firmly on the 1970s, their sound is instantly recognisable.
Pearl Jam were one of the most critically and commercially successful acts of the 1990s, and duly they’ve inspired a range of different artists, including both The Strokes and Silverchair. Not one trick ponies, they’re still going strong today, packing out stadia worldwide, a testament to their skill.
The band’s story is a famous one. They formed after Gossard and Ament’s former band, Mother Love Bone, split following the death of frontman Andrew Wood to a heroin overdose in 1990. Duly, much of Mother Love Bone’s style made its way into Pearl Jam’s, instilling the new band with the same passion that made the defunct alt-metal legends so cherished.
Pearl Jam’s most lauded record is their 1991 debut, Ten, which helped to signal the dawn of the grunge movement alongside Nirvana’s masterpiece Nevermind and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. Immensely successful, it remained on the chart for almost five years, going 13x platinum in the US alone.
The band are so much more than simply Ten, though. They continued their uber-successful run in the 1990s with their second album, 1993’s Vs. setting the record for the most copies of an album sold in the first week of release. Then, their third effort, 1994’s Vitalogy, also broke records, becoming the second-fastest-selling CD in history at the time.
There are many notable elements of Pearl Jam’s sound, and arguably the most prominent is the vocal ability and style of Eddie Vedder. Taking after the likes of Robert Plant and Ian Gillan, there’s a real primal power behind his vocals, with his wail enough to make the hairs on anyone’s neck stand to attention. Augmenting this talent is his lyrical skill, and more often than not, when the band were in their heyday, his words were as dark and challenging as anything his peers Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell were penning.
One of his greatest moments comes from the band’s 1992 MTV Unplugged performance. The band played seven tracks as part of their set, including ‘Oceans’, ‘Alive’, ‘Black’, ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Even Flow’, and across its 35-minute run time, Vedder delivers a masterclass in being a frontman. Here, we hear his vocals in the most candid setting they’ve ever been, and they do not disappoint.
Luckily for us, the isolated vocal track of the whole performance has been unearthed, and in it, we hear just how incredible Vedder is, with it acting as just another piece of evidence as to why he is revered in such God-like terms.