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Song Selection Leaves Pearl Jam Concert Album on Shaky 'Legs' : PEARL JAM "Live on Two Legs" Epic (***)

November 27, 1998|ROBERT HILBURN

One thing you're not supposed to do as a critic is review the album you wish a band had made instead of the one that the band actually delivered. But it's hard not to come up with your own wish list of tunes when you are talking about a rock group as substantial as Pearl Jam. And the selection of material is questionable on this live album.

There's no quarrel with the performances on these 16 tracks, which were recorded during the quintet's frenzied return to live action last summer. And these may very well be the recordings from the tour that sounded best on tape. The band's playing and Eddie Vedder's vocals are indeed blistering.

But there is an entire layer of essential Pearl Jam songs missing--songs, from the passionate, anthem-like independence of "Not for You" to the disarming idealism of "Wishlist," that help define the most valuable elements in the group's music.

Their absence doesn't mean you can't enjoy a Pearl Jam concert--any more than you can't enjoy a Cardinals game just because Mark McGwire sits it out. It's just not the one you'd prefer for a keepsake.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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