Most major rock bands are good for one or two live albums during their careers. As of this week, Pearl Jam have 73 live albums to their credit.
The Seattle rockers, now in their 11th year together, took the unprecedented step of releasing a budget-priced “official bootleg” CD from almost every show on their 2000 tour in order to combat pirates and to give fans a good deal.
The roll-out occurred in three stages, ending Tuesday with the retail release of 24 CDs from the second half of the U.S. tour. Already in stores were 25 CDs from Europe and 23 from the first half of the U.S. tour.
That’s 72 CDs in total.
71 double sets and one three-CD package from the final gig, the Nov. 6 stop in Seattle. Pearl Jam already had a regular live album available, 1998’s “Live on Two Legs.” The tally could have been 74, but the band did not release a CD from its ill-fated stop at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, where nine fans were crushed to death.
For fans unwilling or unable to fork over some serious cash for every CD, Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis recommended the Paris, Katowice (second night) and Verona stops from Europe; Tampa and New York (second show) from the first U.S. batch; and Detroit, Las Vegas, Boise and Seattle (final show) from the new batch.
“It’s very rare when everyone in the band feels like they played great all night,” Curtis told Reuters on Wednesday. “Usually someone had some sort of problem or would struggle a little bit, but it may not be noticeable to the average listener. It’s kinda when it’s clicking on all cylinders.”
Pearl Jam initially thought about grading every CD, but decided against it because some “bad” shows may have been brilliant for fans, and the group did not want to ruin their experience, Curtis said. Band favorites come with a seal of approval: a Darwinian symbol depicting an ape and a man.
Curtis said Pearl Jam have sold just over a million CDs from each of the first two batches, with Katowice and the three New York City CDs the strongest sellers.
Of the third batch, the final Seattle show was the most popular, judging by online sales. Fans were able to order the CDs online before they hit stores, and Curtis said about 90 percent of the first two batches were sold online.
He expected Pearl Jam to start work on a new studio album next year, and to resume the official bootleg sales when they hit the road – maybe in 18 months to two years. Curtis hoped new technology would allow fans to order each night’s CD straight after the show and receive it the next day, or even to download it.
The next studio CD will be the last owed to Sony Music’s Epic Records label under Pearl Jam’s current contract. Curtis said the band’s relationship with Sony was “fine” with room for improvement.
He doubted Pearl Jam would leave Sony, but his charges would seek even more independence, and “so it won’t be any type of normal relationship that they’re (Sony) used to …. obviously we’re going to want to do as much on our own as we can, and what we can’t, Sony will do.”
While Pearl Jam’s sales have tapered off in recent years – to the chagrin of Sony executives – Curtis said the band is “totally happy” with their level of success.
“They’re glad the hysteria’s gone. They have an audience, and the audience is real loyal to them, and they’re happy with that. They know that they could sell more records if they did more things to promote themselves and they choose not to.
“I think they feel like they haven’t written their best music yet, and they like making records, and as long as they’re having fun doing that they’ll be around.”
Curtis is currently overseeing preparations for an album of b-sides set for release in November or December. He is sifting through between 50 and 70 songs that did not appear on any of Pearl Jam’s six studio albums.
With Regard To Pearl Jam’s Members:
Singer Eddie Vedder is in Auckland, New Zealand to perform at five all-star shows next week organized by his friend, former Crowded House leader Neil Finn.
Rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard has just become the first Pearl Jam member to finish a solo album, which he worked on with session drummer Matt Chamberlain and singer/guitarist Pete Droge. The set, called ”Bay Leaf,” is scheduled for release via Epic in early summer. Curtis said Gossard was ”messing around with the idea” of resurrecting his side project, Brad.
Lead guitarist Mike McCready is working with Heart rocker Nancy Wilson on the score for her husband, Cameron Crowe’s new film, ”Vanilla Sky”.
Drummer Matt Cameron just finished a third album with his side project, Wellwater Conspiracy.