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Classic Album Reviews | Pearl Jam | Live: Montreal, Oct. 4, 2000 / Live: Toronto, Oct. 5, 2000

No matter which one you choose, you have definitely made the right decision.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Another year, another two dozen Pearl Jam live albums. Actually, make that four dozen.

Just as they did following last summer’s European tour, Eddie Vedder and his bandmates are trying to beat the bootleggers at their own game by releasing live recordings of virtually every show on the tour. The first batch of 23 is available in U.S. record stores, with a further 24 on the way. (Who wants to hear that many versions of Even Flow? More people than you think — several selections from last year’s bunch and some of the latest series landed in the Billboard Top 200. So there.)

Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your view — here in Canada we haven’t given over entire CD racks to the series just yet. As they did last time around, Sony has picked a couple of volumes to release domestically. Fittingly, they’re recordings of two Canadian shows in Montreal and Toronto last October. (For those of you keeping score at home, they are No. 49 and No. 50 in the set.) LIke the two Polish concerts released in Canada back in September, these volumes come clad in plain-brown-wrapper packages without photos, goodies or any liner notes save scrawled set lists. And like those earlier Polish discs, even though these shows were recorded on consecutive nights, they feature markedly different performances and shows.

Which is better? Well, it’s tough to say. At first blush, the Montreal set seems like it would be the bigger crowd-pleaser. It has 28 cuts, a couple more songs than the Toronto show, not to mention a slightly rockier, more populist set list — along with Breakerfall, Corduroy, Grievance, Animal, Do the Evolution and, yes, Even Flow, you get God’s Dice, Whipping and covers of Last Kiss, Leaving Here and Neil Young’s F—ing Up. Of course, since it’s their first show after several weeks off, you get a slightly rustier performance and a few more equipment malfunctions (especially in the case of guitarist Stone Gossard, who leaves the stage in apparent frustration at one point).

Things go smoother during the 26-song Toronto show. Perhaps even a little too smooth — while still a fine performance, the band doesn’t quite seem to rise to the same heights as in Montreal, choosing to linger on moodier, more varied tracks like Nothing As It Seems, Daughter and Dissident. You don’t get all those covers, either. Although you do get a couple of slightly more rare cuts — the poppy Mankind, featuring Stone on lead vocals, and a propulsive, soaring version of Baba O’Reilly with Gossard and Mike McCready playing all the synthesizer lines on guitar.

In other words, musically it’s pretty tough to pick a winner in this battle. Even the mercurial Vedder seems to be in good spirits both nights, amiably chatting up the crowd. “What’s the name of this place? … Is it still named after beer?” he asks the Toronto crowd, apparently confusing Molson Amphitheatre with Air Canada Centre. “This one’s after an airplane, I guess. Well, they serve beer on airplanes, don’t they?” OK, so it’s not Steve Martin at the Oscars, but from Eddie, that’s practically a shaggy dog story.

So I give up — I’ll have to leave it up to you to pick one over the other. I’ll just say this: No matter which one you choose, you made the right decision.