Pearl Jam Hits 20
One of several well-publicized rock docs to hit the streets in 2011, Pearl Jam Twenty documents the ascent of Seattle grunge rockers Pearl Jam and their journey into becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. Released on October 24 as part of the band’s yearlong 20th anniversary celebration, the film was directed by one of Pearl Jam’s biggest fans, Cameron Crowe. Due in part to his well-documented relationship with the group, Crowe was able to persuade the normally guarded band members to sit down for interviews and let them become the narrative voice of the documentary.
Pearl Jam Twenty offered a handful of nuggets about the quintet, with some of the best insights coming from Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. Cornell discussed the unique, amicable relationships of those involved in the growing Seattle music scene (particularly right before bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana exploded internationally in 1991). Other scenes – like the band’s tangle with Ticketmaster, the Roskilde Festival tragedy, and interactions with Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain all make for compelling portions of the film. Some of the concert footage is noteworthy as well, most especially the 2010 clip of “Better Man” from Madison Square Garden where the audience sings the opening verses of the Pearl Jam staple. Pearl Jam Twenty appropriately concludes with the band’s 2009 four-day stand to close out the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
Likely to be a more interesting viewing for Pearl Jam devotees, Pearl Jam Twenty is nonetheless a great snapshot at one of the biggest bands in the world and at an era where American music revolved around Seattle.