One of the first major live sets by Pearl Jam – a stunning, stripped-down session for MTV Unplugged – will get a wide release in October. The band announced yesterday that the seven-song 1992 broadcast will bow on CD and digital formats on October 22, almost a year after its vinyl debut for Record Store Day Black Friday.
Less than a year before, the quintet fired the first salvo in what would be considered rock’s grunge explosion with the release of debut album Ten. Along with Alice In Chains’ Facelift (released in 1990), Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger and Nirvana’s Nevermind, Ten established Seattle as a hotbed of urgent, emotional rock and roll. Though Nevermind was the symbolic avatar of grunge, famously knocking Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard 200, Pearl Jam helped push the genre’s narrative in visual ways, with members appearing in the cult film Singles (with two new Pearl Jam tracks, including the blistering “State of Love and Trust,” featuring on the film’s soundtrack) and Vedder starring in the arresting music video for Ten single “Jeremy,” today considered one of the greatest of its era.
None of that was yet on display when the band arrived at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens (less than two miles from Second Disc HQ!) on March 16, 1992. Three days before, the group arrived from a European tour; nine days later, they’d embark on the second leg of a North America tour, headlining Lollapalooza and several European festivals before the summer’s end. The seven-month-old Ten was steadily gaining in popularity – by year’s end, it would peak at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 – with “Alive” and “Even Flow” earning strong rock radio airplay.
With all those factors at play, the stage was set for a scene like no other, as Pearl Jam transformed a half-dozen hard-driving songs from Ten like “Oceans,” “Alive,” “Black,” “Jeremy” and “Even Flow” (plus the yet-to-be-released “State of Love and Trust”) into stripped-down performances that lost none of their power in acoustic form. On the contrary: during set closer “Porch,” lead singer Eddie Vedder thrashes off his stool and scrawls “PRO-CHOICE!!” on his arm in marker while bassist Jeff Ament climbs Dave Abbruzzese’s drum riser and guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard trade furious strums and riffs.
Unplugged set the stage for even greater success for Pearl Jam in the decade ahead. More than a decade after the set’s first video release as part of a deluxe Ten box set, it’s coming out in its widest audio release next month. Faithful fans and soon-to-be-converts will not want to miss this one. Pre-order it below.
MTV Unplugged (originally released as Epic/Legacy 19075 92159-1, 2019)
- State of Love and Trust
- Even Flow
All tracks recorded live at Kaufman Astoria Studios, New York – 3/16/1992