Keith Richards & The X-Pensive Winos/Pearl Jam
The Academy, New York City, December 31, 1992
... Ann Powers, from Spin, April 1993Ending a year in which heirs had become apparent, in rock as well as politics, Eddie Vedder was trying hard to keep his veneer of ugliness in place. He looked a wreck, even more than usual, because of the hat: Vedder had stuffed his curly locks under a huge, misshapen black stocking cap, as if to say, "Girls, boys, don't you dare think I'm sexy." But his trademark spastic gyrations kept sending the thing flying. So a few songs into the set, Vedder grabbed a roll of black packing tape and angrily secured the hat to his head. Neither as weird as Nirvana nor as unpleasant as Guns N'Roses, Pearl Jam is being groomed by rock's aging pantheon to inherit their kingdom. That's why Vedder got to stand in for Jim Morrison when the Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and why the band made sense opening for Keith Richards as part of CBS's festivities last New Year's Eve. "If it weren't for Keith we wouldn't be here tonight," Vedder mumbled before launching into "Alive." Then he remembered that Richards wasn't the one who'd bought all those copies of Ten, and added sheepishly, "We're happy to be here." The audience didn't care if Vedder felt ambivalent about their affection.In the weary, worried '90s, the real rock stars have grown suspicious, more likely to dismantle their myth than let it swallow them. Vedder's gift is for refusing to let his shaken faith defeat him. At some point the bombast of his band's operatic rock pushes him past his fear, the hat flies off, and he's ready to ride. That's what happened here. Mike McCready had such a bad case of nerves opening up for his idol that he spat out guitar solos far more intense than usual. Guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, and drummer Dave Abbruzzese decided to play hardcore, pushing the songs, even the ballads, along in a sweaty 40-yard dash. Pearl Jam's anxiety about becoming arena rock fixtures took it back to the punk side of its roots, where the band discovered new ways to tap into its power.
After Pearl Jam's short set, Richards and his band sauntered onstage. Graceful as the rogue-turned-gentleman that he is, Richards guided the group through an easy round of material from his latest album, Main Offender, and some old faves. "Gimme Shelter" missed Mick, but the midnight toast to "Time Is on My Side" offered perfectly Stones-ish, glorious disarray. For the encore, McCready and Vedder crept onstage at Richards's invitation to join him and Robert Cray on "Goin' Down." Vedder stood back, looking more nervous than ever about this inheritance. Richards had to walk over and practically pull him up to the Mike. Finally, Vedder relinquished, and belted out a verse, lefting his charisma shine, His smile, for that moment, was as wide as a prince's crown.
photos by Amy Rachlin