CD Review of Live At The Gorge 05/06 by Pearl Jam

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Live At The Gorge 05/06
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Released: 2007
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Live At the Gorge 05/06 is the latest in a very long line of Pearl Jam live albums that started in 2000, when they released every single concert from that year’s tour on CD. They haven’t stopped since and have released nearly every show since on their website, making themselves the most officially-documented live band in the history of rock music. Even more impressive than the quantity of live recordings Pearl Jam has made available to their fans is the quality of them. Shows like their July 9th, 2003 gig in NYC, their tenth anniversary show on October 22nd, 2000 in Vegas and their three-plus hour May 3rd, 2003 appearance at Penn State are as important to many die-hard Pearl Jam fans as Ten and Vs. Live At The Gorge 05/06 raises the bar for Pearl Jam concert releases even higher, by not offering just one stellar performance, but three.

The first of the three concerts included is from September of ‘05 and is the longest of the set, clocking in at over three hours long. Perhaps realizing that they were in for a long night, the band starts things off slowly with a semi-acoustic set, playing mellower numbers like “Low Light” and “Man of the Hour” (their track from the film Big Fish) before exploding into a marathon session of hard-rocking jams that includes “Last Exit,” “Corduroy,” and “Porch.” Also making appearances during the epic set are rarely-played fan favorites like “Hard To Imagine,” the Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles,” and the Mother Love Bone classic “Crown of Thorns” before closing things off with the standard one-two punch of “Yellow Ledbetter” and the Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”

The concerts from 2006 are from a two-night stay at the Gorge during the band’s tour for its recent self-titled album, so highlights from that album such as “World Wide Suicide,” “Life Wasted,” and “Big Wave” are performed next to alt-rock anthems like “Alive” and “Black.” One highlight from these sets is an epic version of “Daughter” that segues into the Dead Moon song “It’s Ok.” While it’s far from the first time they’ve combined the two songs, Eddie’s impassioned speech that bridges the two together raises it to another level. 

Throughout all three nights the band plays many rarities and B-sides that many die-hard fans will be happy to hear. In addition to the previously mentioned “Hard to Imagine,” many Pearl Jam fanatics will be happy to hear “State of Love and Trust,” “Footsteps,” and the funky “Dirty Frank,” the best dance song about a serial killer bus driver you’ll likely hear all month.

Pearl Jam never doctors or tweaks any of its live recordings, letting the fans hear the mistakes and miscues that many other bands might cover up. While their honesty is admirable, it can be annoying at times, especially when Eddie mucks up the lyrics to great songs like “Off He Goes” and “Black.” Sure, he may be only human, but the reminders of such facts are a little annoying.

If you’re casual Pearl Jam fan and still unsure as to whether or not you should buy Live At The Gorge 05/06, just look at it this way: This is a seven-disc set with eight hours of music and nearly 100 tracks that rarely repeat (there are about 70 individual songs included here). And at only 40 bucks, that is retail-quality rock at wholesale prices.

~James B. Eldred