The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its 2017 induction ceremony on Friday night at the Barclays Center, and now Joan Baez, Journey, Nile Rodgers, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac Shakur (as the first solo rapper) and Pearl Jam are part of the establishment. Pearl Jam was supposed to have been inducted by Neil Young, but Young had to bow out due to illness. While we hope he's better and nailing his Neil Young look soon, Young's absence meant that David Letterman stepped in to do the honors.
Letterman, in his now-trademark post-retirement beard, offered up some jokes like, "I can't begin to tell you what an honor and a privilege it is for me to be out of the house, honest to God. I know Neil Young was supposed to be here and people are saying to me like I had something to do with it. And the truth with it is, the poor guy just can't stay up this late. It’s either that or the guy swallowed a harmonica" and "In 1988, I met most of the people involved in Pearl Jam. We were in a band called Mother Love Bone. I wanted to change it to Mother Soup Bone and they said, 'Get out.'"
He also remarked about Pearl Jam's values:
[I]n 1991 things in the world of musical culture changed with an album entitled Ten. It was like a chinook coming out of the Pacific Northwest. It had an anger to it and it appealed to twenty-something people who felt displaced and unemployed and left out. I was almost 50 and even I was pissed off and it was also easy to dance to but that's another deal.
Then, it turned out that these guys in Pearl Jam were something more than a band. They're true living cultural organisms. They would recognize injustice and they would stand up for it. Whether it was human rights or the environment. Whether it was poverty. They didn't let it wash over them. They would stand up and react.
In 1994, these young men risked their careers by going after those beady-eyed, blood-thirsty weasels. I'm just enjoying saying that. And because they did, because they stood up to the corporations I'm happy to say, ladies and gentleman, today every concert ticket in the United States of America is free. As I've got to know these gentlemen, they are very generous in spirit. As a matter of fact, listen to this, tonight the entire balcony is full of former Pearl Jam drummers. Stand up.
You can read Letterman's entire speech here, in which he shared an endearing anecdote about Vedder giving Letterman's son a small guitar and also claimed, "These guys, I used to have a television show, they were on my show 10 different times over the years. Every time they were there, they would blow the roof off the place and I'm not talking figuratively. They actually blew the roof off the place. For two years I did a show without a roof over the goddamn theater."
Speaking of drummers, here's Rolling Stone on how a few of the band's drummers switched off during the performance:
The band opened with "Alive," which gave Dave Krusen, the drummer from the group's debut album Ten, a chance to sit in behind the kit. Guitars flared on both sides of Eddie Vedder as he rumbled and rasped through the song's life-affirming chorus. Mike McCready got the final word though, hurtling through a virtuosic, head-turning solo and unfurling long streams of notes at remarkable speed as Krusen bashed away at the drums behind him.
Pearl Jam's current drummer, Matt Cameron, returned for the next two songs, "Given to Fly" and "Better Man."
Their closing song was "Rockin' in the Free World."