Best of Yield, Live: Reviewing the Top Live Performances of Each Song
The year is 1998. The most popular rock bands in the United States range anywhere from Top 40 radio mainstays such as Third Eye Blind and Matchbox Twenty, pop-punk bands who outlived the mid-90s boom in Green Day and The Offspring, and then of course, the budding nu-metal bands…I don’t need to remind you who they are. It had been seven years since the landscape of rock ‘n’ roll changed. The influx of bands emanating from the Pacific Northwest had dissipated. Outside of Pearl Jam, none of the other ‘big 4’ bands had survived that far, and if you asked any common music fan at the time, they would’ve said Pearl Jam hadn’t either. But that’s because they were all ill-advised listening to radio stations when they told them how unsatisfying No Code was. We can all admit Who You Are wasn’t a great first single, but beyond the mainstream pull, Pearl Jam was starting to find their maturity both musically and as full grown adults.
No Code was a great start to setting up what would be the foundation of the next 27 years of the band, but it was still working out a little bit of that left over frustration carried by Vs. and Vitalogy. It wasn’t until the release of Yield where we were fully able to see what they were capable of. The songs were more collaborative, took on deeper thematic subjects inspired by works of literature such as Ishmael, and blended a variety of styles and genres to create their most polished work yet. It seemed like the band was finally in a good place, but it wasn’t long before they had to battle uphill again. Jack Irons, who according to Eddie had saved the band upon his arrival in 1994, had to depart for personal reasons. 13 songs that were all ready to be showcased to the universe and the concertgoer (unfortunately, back to TicketMaster again…) to experience a life lasting memory weren’t going to have their original, percussive sound.
But we all know what happened, Matt Cameron ended up being the best replacement anyone could ask for. Some of the songs from Yield were able to thrive on the big stage, and a few even became instant mainstays that sit in the top 10 of most-played songs. While others became afterthoughts for the band with limited play, they turned into exciting chaser songs for the longtime fan who desired to see everything that they’d ever written live. There is definitely a great balance of those two distinctions on this record.
Here we pay homage to some of the best live performances of Yield songs that exist in Pearl Jam’s canon. We’ll go down the list track-by-track with the help of multiple Live On 4 Legs writers to help you rekindle memories, or hear something new that may not have been brought to your attention prior. On the silver anniversary of this album’s release, we present you the best of the best:
1) Brain of J.
The Forum – Englewood, CA – 7/13/1998
Contributed by Brian Horwitz
Brain of J. has a very interesting history. The song first appears in November ’95 at a couple of shows, and much like the ’94 versions of Immortality, it’s musically unpolished with lyrics still not finalized. By the time it makes its appearance again in ’97, it has been transformed into the finalized form of the song we all know from Yield. It’s clear that the song is an absolute powerhouse, and the ’97 versions are definitely worth seeking out (11/12 in particular – Stone’s solo is great).
On the ’98 tour you’d be hard pressed to find shows without the song appearing somewhere in the setlist (A quick search of Five Horizons shows maybe 3-4 shows from the entire tour lacking the song). After ’98, the song cools off significantly and nowadays is quite a treat as a relatively rare bust-out. If you want to look for the best versions, 1998 is where you want to focus. Several months ago, a few of us were discussing this song, and I decided to listen to every ’98 version in my library to see if there were any gems I may have missed. I know I am missing some shows, but I had 26 versions to sift through – not bad! And after listening to all 26 versions, I came to the conclusion that the version I had always declared as the best ever for many years is indeed still the one: 7/13/98 in Inglewood, CA.
As the song kicks in, Eddie can be heard saying “Back and to the left. Back and to the left.”, a nod to the JFK assassination (and perhaps even Seinfeld?). Matt kicks the song into high gear and it’s clear as soon as the power chords kick in that this is one for the ages. Eddie is absolutely STELLAR throughout the whole song, and Stone’s solo is ferocious. It’s tight, aggressive, and intense. The whole band is absolutely locked in, nailing every transition without losing any momentum. There are so many good versions from this tour (and beyond), but this one rises every so slightly above the rest.
Kindl Bühne Wuhlheide – Berlin, DE – 8/15/2009
Contributed by Aaron Redmond
Now here’s a song that you’re only going to hear in the second group of songs in the main set. Unless you’re in Berlin and it’s 2009 – then you’re going to get something that’s altogether…different. Already a pretty interesting set, Ed addresses the crowd after the first song of the second encore – 25 songs deep, to be exact: “We’re gonna play a request right now, because it’s the biggest fucking sign I’ve ever seen…I guess size matters!” and then, “…once again, ladies and gentlemen…Mike McCready,” who then strums the opening chords of Faithfull for the first time in over a year.
It doesn’t matter one iota, as they play like it’s been on the set every night for months. Ed sounds fantastic, Matt is driving the bus, and Jeff’s bass is wonderfully at the forefront of the mix. Hardly a rarity, yet still not played nearly often enough, this is a treasure of a performance. Matt’s fills are huge and his vocals are surprisingly loud, to boot. Stone and Mike are, of course, weaving the whole thing together effortlessly with all of the dynamic changes that are entailed, beautifully putting the crowd on notice that this show ain’t over quite yet – leading into a raucous Sonic Reducer. Masterful.
3) No Way
Lakewood Amphitheatre – Atlanta, GA – 9/1/1998
Contributed by Aaron Redmond
“Okay, I think I recognize this one guy, he’s come to a few shows and he keeps holding up the same damned sign, and uh…I never wanna see this fuckin’ sign again, so…you asked for it…” So begins No Way in Atlanta on September 1, 1998. Soundchecked several times the evening before in Raleigh, the band (or Ed, at least) was clearly thinking ahead on this performance.
Smoother and more natural than the debut performance a week prior in Pittsburgh, this rendition is on point. Though imperfect in its execution this night, it is nonetheless Pearl Jam at their finest – paying attention to the desires of fans, reacting to them, including them, and being consummate professionals all along the way.
No Way exhibits the best of what Yield offers us: quirkiness, soaring guitar, engaging percussion, groovy bass, earnest lyrics, and simply dynamic overall. That night it was, and continues to be, a rare gem.
4) Given To Fly
Riverport Amphitheater – Maryland Heights, MO – 10/11/2000
Contributed by Chris Everett
Even for Pearl Jam super fans, being asked to select the best live performance of a song that has been played at over 75% of the band’s concerts over the last 25 years feels like an insurmountable task.
As I began my review of Given To Fly for this piece I first considered the shows I’ve personally attended. I then consulted the LO4L Patreon Evolution episode for a refresh on Randy and John’s detailed historical breakdown of the maturation of the song since its debut at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA on 11/12/1997.
Released as the first single off of Yield in December 1997, Given To Fly’s in-concert evolution is a substantial one spanning 25 years, 499 all-time performances, and a major personnel change behind the drum kit.
Before his unexpected departure from the band following the 1998 Australian leg, drummer Jack Irons set the standard for Given to Fly, laying a 19-show foundation of moderate tempo, tom-heavy grooves. Those earlier, more relaxed versions continue to be fan favorites, but are markedly different from the fast-paced, anthemic performances of Given To Fly we have today, led by Matt Cameron’s driving, cymbal-forward style.
Finding its place consistently in the early-to-middle of the first set, Given To Fly has also featured as a Pearl Jam show opener 8 times – including a rain-delayed Night 2 at Wrigley Field that I attended in 2018. While this show doesn’t make my list of one of the top performances, it is a reminder for me of just how much the song has evolved in the last quarter-century.
With most things I consider important for lists such as this, it’s not just the music itself that has to stand out. I also consider the moment itself or the meaning behind the song when evaluating the most epic performances. Given To Fly is no exception and – when it comes to this song’s moments – there are none bigger than what transpired on stage in St. Louis on October 11, 2000, during the band’s Binaural tour.
Immortalized on Pearl Jam’s Touring Band 2000 DVD, just before Given To Fly’s spot on the setlist, Eddie spots a woman near the side of the stage illustrating the band’s performance using sign language for the hearing-impaired concertgoers in the audience. He states:
“There’s something really interesting happening here on the side of the stage which, if it’s happened before we’ve never seen it. There’s someone signing every word that we say or sing. And it’s much more interesting to watch than any of us, excluding maybe Matt Cameron the drummer.”
Ed then departs from the center-stage mic and walks down to greet the signer, lifting her up onto the stage and introducing her to the crowd:
“So that’s Kim everybody. St. Louis, this is Kim. Kim, St. Louis.”
I’m actually looking forward to seeing what the next song sounds like – or looks like. It’s called Given To Fly.
Once the song begins, the camera captures Ed admiring the signer, who we now know as the late Kim Schaefer, as she signs the lyrics and expressively moves her body to the rhythm.
The gradual build-up of the first verse gives way to an incredible release of collective emotion as the crowd (and Kim) begins bouncing up and down before Ed belts out the first lines of the second verse “a wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw…delivered him wings “hey look at me now”.”
As we get through the chorus into the first few lines of the third verse, we experience another gradual build-up into Ed’s emphatic delivery of “well fuckers!” as he gestures with his middle finger as Kim claps her hands in synchrony.
Kim’s energy and expressiveness continues to grow all the way through the final chorus before Ed again steps away from center-mic, joining her for a quick dance during the song’s outro – much to the delight of the St. Louis crowd.
Coupled with the band’s flawless musical performance, that dance has become one of the countless legendary moments Pearl Jam has cultivated in 30+ years of touring and is why this show earns the honors as the best live version of Given To Fly.
Tweeter Center – Mansfield, MA – 7/11/2003
Contributed by Dakota Duvall
A song that I see many people say is boring and simple may just be one of their more complex and beautiful songs. There are so many good performances of this one that it was hard to choose one. 2000 and 2003 were littered with great versions, but I think if I had to show someone one live performance of Wishlist that captured the beauty of the song it would be 7/11/03 in Mansfield, MA.
From the roar of the crowd after the first note you can tell it’s a crowd favorite. It’s one of the versions that it seems like Ed is listening and feeling every wish as he sings it. A wonderful solo in the middle by Ed adds to the emotion of the song live. A Buzzcocks “Why Can’t I Touch It?” tag that had the 19,900 capacity Tweeter Center sounding like 100,000 fans singing back at the band.
If the band ever released a hand picked 32-song bootleg to simulate a show over their touring career and Wishlist was on it, this should be the version they pick.
The Spectrum – Philadelphia, PA – 10/31/2009
Contributed by Patrick Boegel
On January 31, 1998, a month and a half after a Syracuse, NY radio station unintentionally generated the seed for a near full-album international leak of Yield, Pearl Jam settled on the airwaves for what was to be what many fans hoped would be the unveiling of Yield.
Monkeywrench Radio delivered. The band performed 6 songs from Yield, 2 of which made their performance debuts. The third song of their opening miniset was Pilate. Optimistically, I took this as a good sign that Pilate would be in setlist rotation for the Yield tour. Alas, it was not to be. This succinct but textured number with Jeff Ament’s signature off-center rhythm structure would prove to be one of the more elusive songs off Yield to catch live.
Over the years, the bands live setup continued to get honed in, and after a near decade-long absence the band would unleash what I would argue is the best performance of the track. On the night the band would help close the doors on the famed Philadelphia Spectrum, Pilate was not only poignant but near flawless. The tempo is just right and the band found the right blend to make the choruses soar.
7) Do The Evolution
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY – 7/8/2003
Contributed by Randy Sobel
For a song that has been played 546 times, good for 8th on the all-time most played list, you can see why it would be a challenge to pick the best one. Those 1998 versions are raw and have that unhinged grind to it. There are a handful of versions where Stone is the star of the show, absolutely nailing his parts of the solo. And you can’t talk about Do The Evolution without mentioning the thunderous South American versions where the crowds are at a fever pitch, perhaps the most intense that a crowd can get at a Pearl Jam show. But I didn’t select a specific version from any Latin American country because it’s one of my biggest pet peeves just to say ‘all of them’, and I wouldn’t have a better answer than that. So I went with the obvious choice here and selected perhaps the most famous version of this song that was on the Live At The Garden DVD from 2003. But how could you not?
A red hot crowd in New York City that had already seen a show for the ages was about to give viewers of this concert DVD something to talk about. Around the time that Stone’s patented mid-set solo rings out, Ed leans down to the stage floor to feel it with his hand. There were vibrations emanating from the crowd’s intensity. They were so fired up that they made the concrete shake, anyone who was there that night can attest to that. As the song progresses and that intensity builds up to a fever pitch, Ed reacts to all of it right before the ‘hallelujah’ choir hits: “…this stage is BOUNCING…sing like a choir!” The band would leave the stage in order to take a much needed breather before the second encore, leading to Ed sharing this when he comes back on stage:
“Something happened just now, it’s easy for us to get freaked out because we want everything to be safe. But the stage was bumping up and down like [makes hand motion]. And I just want to tell you this because it’s a credit to you more than us, I was just told that it only bounced like that for three other people and they were The Grateful Dead, Iron Maiden [Mike shreds a second of “Number of the Beast”] and Bruce Springsteen, and we’re really proud to be a part of that crowd right now. Proud to be part of that group there, but I gotta tell ya, it scared the fuck out of us! Feel free to do it again.”
The reason why this slightly edges out a version from South America isn’t because it happened in Madison Square Garden, but it’s close. It’s because a majority of those shows (if not all of them) are played in outdoor venues. So while the crowd can project and let their voices travel for miles, it doesn’t get bottled up to the point where it’s so loud that the facility almost can’t contain it. Stack this performance up with every memorable live moment in the band’s history and I guarantee this makes the top 10 every single time.
8) Red Dot/Red Bar/The Color Red/Untitled
Contributed by Randy Sobel
For the record, I prefer Red Dot. This little Jack Irons kettle drum jam is sort of used as the transitional break between sides A and B. Seeing as this has no lyrics attached, it has never been played live. The closest they’ve gotten was its utilization as a take the stage song on the 1998 tour. I guess the question lingers here, what if Jack stayed with the band? Would they have busted out kettle drums and played it for real? We’ll never have the answer for sure, but the instance where everyone recognizes it’s appearance comes from the beginning of the Milwaukee show where they played the entire album front to back.*
*except for this one
Arena Di Verona – Verona, IT – 6/20/2000
Contributed by Chris Everett
While there are some performances that vary in tempo and energy (and lyrics when Ed forgets them) it’s not a song that has markedly evolved over the last 25 years. As I sit here after listening to dozens of its 162 all-time performances, I am, however, left pondering whether there is another Pearl Jam song that is more closely associated with its country of origin than MFC is.
It’s a story Ed’s told or alluded to numerous times while touring Italy. Before playing the song’s Italian debut in Verona (6/20/2000) during the Binaural tour, he first described it as “…written in Italy, with Italians.” Just two nights later in Milan (6/22/2000), he gave us a little more context on the story behind MFC:
“It was the last time we were here and I fell in love in Italy. She was absolutely beautiful. She was really small…and she had four wheels and they called it a Mini. So I wrote a song about my new love for her, and I wrote it in Italy and it’s called MFC.”
A little over six years later in Milan (9/17/2006) during the Avocado tour, Ed’s intro to MFC offered a little foreshadowing of what was to come:
“This song was written in a very small car…a very fast small car …”
The band then unleashed a blistering rendition clocking in at 2:05, a full 22 seconds faster than the studio album release.
“Many, many years ago a few friends of mine, we took a drive out of Roma and we went down to a place called Porto Ercole and we were driving this cool little car you know, and maybe things weren’t going so good and it just felt like freedom to be in this little car with knowing where you were and one good thing to have a song written about it is that the song always takes you back to that feeling.”
“Maybe ’98 I took about 2-3 months here, based out of Roma…and I got so many memories from it. But, one of the main ones is we took a drive…and we had this little mini Trubant and we were listening to Pixies and U2 and the windows were down and there was no traffic and it just felt as close to freedom than anything I’d felt since like 1990. And I wrote a little song about that car and the people in it, and since we’re on a race track I figured we’d take the little mini fast car around the oval.”
While each of the performances of MFC that I’ve touched on are fantastic in their own right, in the spirit of origins, I’m picking the Verona 2000 performance as my #1 live version of Yield‘s MFC.
Adelaide, AU 3/7/98 – only the 8th performance of MFC, but the first time as a show opener.
East Troy, WI 6/27/98 – an earlier performance of the song in the States after touring Australia. Ed noodles around with an improv intro that is a clear precursor to modern day Untitled, leading into MFC at what feels like a slightly slower tempo…this version also features a noticeable lack of “Na-na na-na-na-nas” that we’ve come to love and expect.
Landgraaf, NL 6/12/00 – a ridiculously tight Pinkpop performance with the band in good spirits just 2.5 weeks before Roskilde. Had Italy not played such an important role in the birth of MFC, it likely would have been my #1 pick.
Prague, CZ 9/22/06 – at the height of the Avocado tour the band surprises with an MFC opener. Only the 7th time the song opens a Pearl Jam show, Prague is just the 5th time MFC has been on the setlist in the previous 61 tour dates in 2006. Stone’s outro guitar solo sings over the top of Ed’s last “Na-na na-na-na-na.” It’s a solid performance.
10) Low Light
Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL – 7/19/2013
Contributed by Aaron Redmond
Sneakily common, Low Light once enjoyed ‘rare’ status – yet, it now stands as being played only a few times less than In Hiding, itself being just five plays short of the 100 threshold. The evolution of Low Light took a turn in 2005, moving away from nearly always being played as an acoustic-style rendition. (Check out the Gorge 2005 performance.)
It would take years for the band to really settle into how it exists today – a song that is at once intimate, yet can also fill a stadium and bring the crowd together. Often placed at or near the beginning of the set, it has come to have a “relax, we’re here now” feeling – only adding to that is the fact that Ed frequently chooses it for outdoor shows in which it is played near dusk.
Thus, we have the prototypical version – Wrigley Field in 2013. Billed as “An Evening With Pearl Jam” and played fifth in the set, it is perfect in every way. Showing us just how closely he pays attention to these things, Ed would select it once more to open Wrigley I in 2016, then place it second at Wrigley I in 2018.
Back to 2013. Mike lifts his arms, encouraging us to sing, and the whole place responds vehemently. Clearly basking in the moment, Ed is clearly settling into the moment as he is at last playing his Mecca. His gestures physically push the words to us, and Mike’s solo flows seamlessly into Stone’s strums. Ed continues his ode to the setting sun, and his final words, “…the dream I see…” carry out across the crowd, seemingly endless, and we are all left electrified for the long show ahead. Little did we know, of course, just how long that would be.
11) In Hiding
Rose Garden Arena – Portland, OR – 7/18/1998
Contributed by Patrick Boegel
The other pair of the Yield debuts from Monkeywrench Radio, In Hiding is a song that right away had the feel of a monster wave that was destined to become a classic like Alive, Daughter, and Corduroy before it. While it certainly had a fair share of inclusion during the Yield and Binaural tours, its place in the band’s canon has been more semi-cult classic than the aforementioned live staples.
The song has such a wonderful structure and progression. The punk side of Pearl Jam fans might bristle at the notion, but I’ve always heard a very Beatles-esque opportunity for horns on this song. George Martin would have undoubtedly gone that route. While it’s been more of a sneaky set list inclusion since 2003, it’s appearances have had a handful of stunners. Notably, the Vic Theatre 2007 show (Vault 2) is often a go-to for the reaction of the fan club members in attendance.
But I’m taking this one all the way back to the Yield tour, US leg 1 in Portland on July 18. An amazing set that would be a welcome addition to the Vault series. This version of In Hiding simply hits all the notes, literally and figuratively. Give it a close listen, and during the chorus you can pick up someone whistling a la Sam Taylor on Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay.” It’s most likely a fan near the audience recording or perhaps the taper, but I’d like to think it was Ed or Stone just channeling and nodding to the incredible arrangements of George Martin, thinking ‘man, a couple of brass instruments here…’ Listen to Jeff’s bassline, especially from the transition from verse to chorus and tell me that doesn’t sound like a tuba!
12) Push Me, Pull Me
Copps Coliseum – Hamilton, ON – 9/15/2011
Contributed by Aaron Redmond
The unmistakable bass line growls at the audience, Ed leans forward and intensely speaks the words, “I had a false belief…” and the rarest of the rare is happening at this 2011 Hamilton show, midway through a short fall run across Canada following the PJ20 festival weekend.
A fair amount of songs not often heard were being peppered into these sets, but this is unexpected, and the only other time it is played that year. Short and increasingly upbeat, the way that the band has tightened and evolved this song with so few performances is impressive. It’s so common for them to struggle with – perhaps not even enjoy – performances of some of these rarer tracks, but they appear to be having great fun with it, and Ed appears to only glance at a notebook a couple times. For the Yield fans among us, especially those that didn’t attend PJ20, this is an absolute treat.
13) All Those Yesterdays
Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, ON – 9/8/2022
Contributed by Randy Sobel
You may have noticed a trend on this list where the discussion ends up being about how little they’ve played some of these Yield songs. There are four songs that have been played so infrequently that they are near the bottom on the list of collective plays for studio album songs. All Those Yesterdays falls into this category, and doesn’t deserve the treatment it receives. Out of 22 renditions, there are multiple performances that stick out. The versions from ballpark shows at Fenway Park and Safeco Field put the song up front and center with a large audience. In 2012, there was a show in Stockholm where the crowd created a moment which led to everyone waving their hands in the air from side to side. And of course, I have to make mention of when it was the end capper to the Milwaukee set in 2014. Strangely enough, I’m not gonna choose any of those versions. Instead I’m opting for something way more recent – Toronto from this past September.
It’s clearly a personal decision, there are better versions of the song, but this one means a lot to me. I’ve been lucky enough to see this song two and a half times. Yes, you read that correctly. The first instance was in Brooklyn, but the second was supposed to be at Fenway. It’s a long story, but the shortened version is that I was still walking around and hadn’t entered the stadium yet. I heard bits and pieces on the walk, but I was agonizing over not witnessing one of my favorite songs off my favorite record.
Then Toronto came. I had looked forward to the date for two reasons: it was on my birthday, and it was my first show of 2022, due to Sacramento and Vegas being canceled. The early five song ‘warm up’ was getting played around with every night. Some new, some old, and then some that they have almost never played, so the anticipation was high. Coupled together with a cover of one of my favorite quirky Beatles songs, “Her Majesty”, the minute those notes were plucked, you could hear a collective shock and excitement in the arena. Or in other words, I lost my damn mind! McCready playing an acoustic was an interesting addition to the song that stripped it down a bit, it could’ve easily been featured at a Bridge School show in the past. But it didn’t prevent Ed from getting his jabs in and extending his voice to really reverberate when the song stayed pretty even keel.
It’s a song that, on the surface, you think you’re collecting a rarely played commodity, but the song moves and progresses really well and keeps you captivated the whole way through. 22 performances are nowhere close to what this song deserves, but for as lucky that I’ve been with seeing it, it took 87 shows until my friend Steve finally got to hear it that night. Gigaton aside, it completed his full studio album collection.