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Pearl Jam: Live At The Garden
featuring: Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Boom Gaspar, Stone Gossard, and Mike McCready

filmed by Liz Burns, Steve Gordon, Kevin Shuss, and Brandon Vedder

205 minutes (E) 2003
Sony Music DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The garden in question is Madison Square Gardens on the 8th of July 2003 and, outside of the innumerable Seattle gigs, if it is to be the full concert experience then it is the entire two and a half hour job that the band feel their patient fans deserve. Since the millennium they have taken to repaying their fans the debt of not having toured as considerably as they might have over the latter half of the 1990s. The 2002 and 2003 legs took them across America into South America, over to Australia and back up through Japan, 'full circle' as Michael Palin might describe it. Rather than poke their head around the door they hit each country as thoroughly as possible, which, again, does not bring them back to other countries as immediately as fans would like, but Pearl Jam fans are an understanding and unselfish lot by and the large.
   This 36 song (30 from the concert) two-disc set is not the match of Pearl Jam: Touring Band 2000, the concert DVD that celebrated their return to touring. The poor quality camerawork and the venue's lurid colour lighting fail to produce enough footage that is decently framed or viewable despite the four-camera set-up. Mike McCready, sleeveless, tattoo-proud and bounding around the stage, is frequently decapitated by the top of the frame in the early part of the concert while the sickening green light blurs out a lot of the detail; 'Green Disease' indeed. There is some levelling out in the filming standards, but most of the performances affected relate to songs from the latest long player, Riot Act, and it is they that some fans would perhaps like to see caught on film this time around. Having said that favourites Black, Spin The Black Circle and Yellow Ledbetter did not make it onto the last tour DVD, and are probably the more important inclusions.    Yellow Ledbetter turns up on disc two and this is the more exciting of the two. During that troubled period of 1994-9 Pearl Jam failed to supply aficionados with nada more than Single Video Theory, and the remarkable animated promotional video for Do The Evolution (the artwork by that other great Seattle-ite, McFarlane) as visual backup. And the latter was included on Pearl Jam Touring Band 2000. Do the Evolution is one of the most stirring rock tunes ever and is rarely off the concert play-list. Here the audience explodes with it and not one of the four cameras is ready or steady for it, bouncing unceremoniously with the floor. The bounce is so disconcerting that at the end of the song the band hastily exits the stage concerned, so they claim, that it is going to collapse, anticipating all potential disasters since Roskilde. The floor manager informs them that the Garden stage has only shook like that on three previous occasions: for The Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden and Bruce Springsteen. Though shy of promo videos the one song that is so perfectly filmed and edited that it could qualify is a beautiful song that may be less familiar to people, Crown Of Thorns. Any mystery to the song's origin is answered in the closing credits where the writing is attributed to Ament, Gossard and Andy Wood, the mention of the latter placing it as a Mother Love Bone song, Wood the singer whose death would eventually lead to the survivors' reformation in the mode of Pearl Jam.
   There are guest appearances from various artistes, who should all have been supporting at some stage in the tour, including Ben Harper, Tony Barber and The Buzzcocks' Steve Diggle (The Buzzcocks were not the only Manchester musicians to tour with Pearl Jam in 2003, Johnny Marr and the Healers did Australia with them). Which brings us to the bonus features that include a compilation that pays tribute to the acts that wended their part way in Pearl Jam's magic arc, to the tune of Fortunate Son. Thanks are given to the technicians while you listen to All Those Yesterdays. Dead Man is Vedder alone with his guitar coming onto an unnamed open-air stage to treat the keenest of early concert comers. Bushleaguer becomes a montage of performances of the song filmed during the tour as Vedder impales the George Bush rubber mask on the mike-stand, jams a cigarette in its mouth, punches it in the face and throws it away amongst other indignities far less appalling than any current Republican policy. Finally there is a fifth camera, an idea carried over from the previous tour disc, 'the mat-cam', a fixed shot on Matt Cameron and the drum kit through five of the songs already heard at the Gardens, one of which is Crown Of Thorns.
   Great music cannot disguise the shoddiness of the image quality. The band's followers have had to wait too long for the visuals and several of the band members aren't ageing too well. Noxious lighting, severing shots, chasing and baffled framing, digital photography that bad, as a result, will rightly bring complaints from the hardiest of fans. Still most of the cameramen had prime locations from which to capture the footage. There is no excuse, but that next time more experienced cameramen are hired and it is not left to friends and family, as was so seemingly the case here.
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