return to main page

place/date: a review

No words, just feelings. No sounds, just visions.

Itís a book of concert photos, but it manages to convey the energy and dynamics and motion of a live show, flash-frozen, just like the memories in your brain. Or at least my brain: my best memories of shows stand still, as if Iím trying to distill as much as I can into one moment so I can store up as many of them as I can.

At first, I didnít look at the listing in the back of the book. It didn't matter. It didn't matter, because I just knew, and so will you -- there's enough of the classic, historical moments: Drop In The Park, Eddie climbing the mic cord and hanging above Magnusson Park; Eddie smashing the hole in the stage in Boston, that leap that was captured for an epic promo poster circa 92/93, enough McCready leaps and bounds and physical guitar-love; Ed hanging onto the balcony at the Moore Theatre just before jumping from the "Evenflow" video, an outtake from their first promotional photo session. But these are touchstones, guideposts, reminders, this book isnít about chronicling the history of Pearl Jam through every significant moment; but it ends up being the history of Pearl Jam because of its genericism: you could have seen one show, or even one video, and you can immediately identify, it reaches out and grabs your heart in a bear hug just like the live experience does.

We have sadly lost the art of great rock photography. The days of Jim Marshall, Annie Liebovitz, when youíd buy magazines for the photos but then you couldn't bear to cut the pages apart because they were ART, they werenít glossy, pretty snapshots, they deserved the dignity of presentation. And just like PJ have recaptured the spirit of a time when music really mattered, Lance Mercer and Charles Peterson too have revived the spirit of rock and roll photography as an art form. If you werenít around in those days, this book will be a new experience for you; it puts most of todayís so-called rock photography to shame.

Aside from the brilliance of the photography, there is also the care and thought put into the layout and presentation of the photos. This isn't just large glossy beautiful photos one after the other; there is a loose sense of pattern and theme, an easy use of color and composition as unifying elements. This is all done so artfully that itís almost casual; it gives your eye a relaxed visual flow to follow through the book, gently transporting you from one photo to the next, one page to the next. Itís so well done that you probably donít notice (which is the sign that itís successful)!

The way this book has made me feel after my first browse-through, I cannot believe anyone ever dared to suggest that PJ putting out a book of photos was a sell-out; this book is as uncommercial as they come, made totally with us, the fans, in mind. Itís not just live shots, either: the candid shots give us a glimpse of what it's like for the band on the road -- planes and dressing rooms, waiting rooms and rehearsal studios. Things that were important for them to show us, that were important for us to see. This is as intimate a moment as when Ed sits down to have a chat with us during a show. And for those who bitched about the price, Iíve seen shorter books of less quality cost double what this one did. Itís a coffee-table book, except that most of us probably donít have a coffee table to put it on! (Go buy one just for the book, it deserves it!)

There are bands that are more visually oriented in a more direct sense than PJ is, who work with video and photography on a constant basis. Pearl Jam have always done things differently, with a level of thought and consideration for the visual aspect in an unique and more challenging way, and place/date is yet another manifistation of this. Looking at my bookshelf, wracking my brains, I cannot think of any other *BAND* who has undertaken such a project, let alone with such tremendous result. In the past, it's been the photographers who have put such projects together, with the result being that youíre seeing their perspective, the shots they want to show you. While Iím sure that Lance and Charles had more than their say in this, the fact that this book is a Ten Club production, and not from some major publishing house (who would have put all sorts of restrictions and conditions on it, Iím sure) says it all.

With everything the band has given us this year, this book is just the most fucking unbelievable, incredible thing to me. This book is the quintessential Pearl Jam experience, and you can hold it in your hand. I was really looking forward to this, I expected something great -- but this just surpasses every possible expectation I ever could have had.

NOTE: The hardcover version of this book is still available to Ten Club members; write them at for more information.

You can also order it on Amazon.

Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons