In cinemas for one night only, ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ opened with a somewhat unexpected interview with a group of long-haired louts in a locker room wearing women’s underwear - their wide-eyed naivety and boyish good looks as yet unbroken by a music career that would go on to span two decades and counting.
Billed as a definitive portrait of the band as told by Academy Award winning filmmaker and music journalist Cameron Crowe, for fans of the music the film provides a rare look at the band before the Seattle sound swept the world. As Crowe states during his narration, these were kids who spent a lot of time indoors, had a lot of time to play and listened to everything. It was a scene of friends who inspired each other to be better artists.
Much like the documentary ‘Hype’, ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ explores the roots of the band and their evolution from Mother Love Bone and Temple Of The Dog into the global Pearl Jam juggernaut of today. With all the affection he had in telling ‘Almost Famous’, Crowe has taken both unseen footage from their humble beginnings and iconic moments that are now a part of music history, entwining the two to illustrate Pearl Jam’s undeniable chemistry. Seeing the performance of ‘Alive’ at their second ever show sent shivers down my spine and showed me once and for all that they truly were destined for stardom.
Clips from the MTV archive are used regularly throughout the film. VMA performances, MTV News bulletins, ‘Headbangers Ball’ moments and an episode of ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ all make an appearance – there’s even footage from an MTV ‘Singles’ movie promo party coupled with a hilarious recount of the awful drunken spectacle that ensued. And of course, no Pearl Jam documentary could exclude their incomparable 'MTV Unplugged' show. Funnily enough, when told that MTV touted this performance as one of the best Unplugged shows ever, Vedder replied “I don’t trust nobody - especially when they say something good”.
It’s these candid comments that make ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ a real stand out. We’re given a wonderful insight into their early feuding with Nirvana, fronting Congress in their war with Ticketmaster, their mentorship with Neil Young and the tragedy at Roskilde, all of which have shaped the path of Pearl Jam over the past twenty years. Devoted fans will always want to know more about the men behind the music, but that said, they should be very happy with this rare glimpse behind the wall.
'Pearl Jam Twenty' the soundtrack is out now, while the DVD is slated for release in October.
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