Short Cuts

Part of this desire to maintain credibility is evident on the song selection of Live on Two Legs. It's not a greatest-hits package; only two hits -- "Black" and "Even Flow," from their first and best-selling record, Ten -- are included. Instead Live is evenly culled from the group's five studio albums.

The gleaming guitars of "Corduroy," with ex-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron (a temporary fill-in) providing a low-end boom, come close to delivering the epiphanies of which Pearl Jam is capable. And on "Given to Fly," Cameron starts as the lead instrument, tribal and flowing, before the guitars catch up and Vedder lets loose with impassioned singing. But "Hail Hail" comes closest to the essence of the band live, offering an almost punk passion (but not the sloppiness), with Vedder chewing up the scenery, singing through gritted teeth.

Unfortunately that's about it for the bright spots. The downfall of the record is the lack of variation. It offers just one tempo and one mood: midtempo and rocking. Song after song, the band hits its instruments hard but without much deviation. More passion would help as well.

The world is short on rock bands that can carry Neil Young's earnest torch and piss off people in the music business by handling fame with integrity. On Live, Pearl Jam covers Young's "Fuckin' Up," and Vedder sings a verse of "Rockin' in the Free World" during "Daughter." But the band doesn't demonstrate much of Young's exuberance. In fact, what the record proves is that, as well-intentioned as it is, Pearl Jam has created a lot of similar-sounding songs. -- David Simutis

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