Let's Play Two: Live At Wrigley Field

Pearl Jam

Monkeywrench, 2017


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


One of the great sports stories of the last two decades was the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, and few celebrities were happier than Eddie Vedder. Sensing a kinship between dedicated, lifelong Cubs fans and dedicated, lifelong Pearl Jam fans, filmmaker Danny Clinch put together the Let’s Play Two documentary/concert film in 2017.

The parallels may strike some as clumsy, given how Pearl Jam started out in 1991, but the relationship makes a lot of sense. Cubs fans I know are unwavering in their support, brushing off the “losers” or whatever tags they put up with for so many years, always believing in the power of baseball and their team. Pearl Jam fans, similarly, remain dedicated to the band year after year, filling stadiums and singing along to all of the songs, dismissing critics who claimed they were washed up or only had one good album or whatever nonsense critics come up with (present company excluded). Cubs fans cheered when they won the Series. Pearl Jam fans cheered when their scrappy fighters were elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Vedder truly is a lifelong Cubs fan, a fact the documentary strongly emphasizes, so the win was personal for him and so, too, was the two-night stand at Wrigley in 2016 that this disc captures. Let’s Play Two is a fine sampler of both shows, although it fades out in between songs because it’s technically a soundtrack and not a front-to-back live show. But that’s a small matter. More than Live On Ten Legs or even PJ20, this disc is a very good representation of the power of live Pearl Jam, not just musically but in the synergy between band and crowd.

The disc follows the template of a standard Pearl Jam show; a low-key opener (“Low Light,” in this case), a unique mix of tracks from all of the band’s albums, a surprise track or two, and a well-worn yet beloved cover of a classic rock song. PJ approaches every show with a new setlist; they know what songs are popular, but they don’t want to get bored playing them, hence the shakeup each night. So here you get the perennial “Corduroy” with the B-side rarity “Black, Red, Yellow;” the anthemic divorce ballad “Black” with the newer track “Lightning Bolt;” and the soaring “Given To Fly” with the little-heard Vitalogy opener “Last Exit.”

Perhaps because the Chicago setting means so much to Eddie and/or because the shows were being filmed, the setlist leans a little heavier on the ‘90s era, with “Jeremy,” “Alive,” “Go,” “Release,” “Betterman,” and “Elderly Woman” all making an appearance. To Pearl Jam’s everlasting credit, the songs still sound fresh and sharp, played with ferocity and the anthemic vigor they deserve. One doesn’t need the crowd’s participation to feel like they’re part of it, but it helps all the same.

The disc works as a great sampler for Pearl Jam live. For fans, much of the material is redundant, albeit perennially enjoyable; about the only surprises are “Black, Red, Yellow,” the baseball love song “All The Way,” “Lightning Bolt,” and the closing cover of the Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling.” These aren’t necessarily enough to push this into must-own territory, but as far as live Pearl Jam souvenirs go, this is one of the best ones on the market.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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