When Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen shared a touching rendition of ‘Better Man’
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen are two of the most revered names in the world of music. Thanks to the incredible material that they have both forged over recent decades, the two singers have become two of the biggest names in American music. With that in mind, when the two iconic figures shared the stage in 2004 it was a moment for the history books.
Springsteen and Vedder have performed together on numerous occasions since this appearance, one that took place in The Boss’ home state of New Jersey during the Vote For Change tour. The string of live dates arrived in the wake of the Iraq war, playing live several swing states before the 2004 election which tried to encourage voters to choose Democrat nominee John Kerry and oust George W. Bush from the oval office. While the mission was unsuccessful, the attempt is worth watching as it sees some huge names work together to create something brilliant.
The tour was meticulously planned and had originally only planned to focus only on the five crucial swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida and Washington, D.C. which looked set to be the most decisive areas in the election. However, in the final weeks, it seemed New Jersey may just be as vital a location to target for the Democrats which led to another leg being added.
Bruce Springsteen made it his mission to make sure that there was a New Jersey leg of the tour too, he later recalled: “I glanced over the front page of the morning paper and it says: ‘Election race tightens up in New Jersey,’” he said. “The first thought that came to my mind, of course, was, ‘Great God almighty!’ The second thought was, ‘What the bejesus!’ The third thought was, ‘Get me to the Meadowlands now!’”
They then added a final date to the run of shows, one arriving on 13th October at East Rutherford’s Continental Airlines Arena. The performance saw Springsteen headline for a very special homecoming alongside a stripped-back set from Vedder, Jackson Browne, James Fogerty as well as a performance from E-Street member and The Boss’ better half Patti Scialfa.
Throughout the show, Springsteen encouraged the crowd to get behind John Kerry’s campaign and at one point stated to his adoring fans: “If you’re swinging, if you’re swinging, if you’re sweeping if you’re swooping, if you’re switching, if you just can’t decide, if you wanna be even temporarily released from the burdens of the Republicanism, you can be saved right now,” he said. “Do I have a volunteer? Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help, I need a minute to close our eyes and say Haliburton three times real fast.”
The evening also marked the first time ever that the E Street Band ever attempted to play a number by Pearl Jam when they aired a faultless version of 1994’s ‘Better Man’ with the assistance of Vedder. This was the final of three tracks that the Pearl Jam man had joined The Boss on after blistering through glorious renditions of ‘No Surrender’ and the appropriate ‘Darkness On The Edge Of The Town’ with the chemistry between Vedder and Springsteen being instantly tangible.
The track is of significant emotional significance to Vedder and it was actually written while he was a teenager in angst at his stepfather who his mother remarried following his father’s death. At some shows, Vedder has been known to dedicate it to “the bastard who married my mother”.
‘Better Man’, in a bizarre way, also represented the American political landscape of in 2004 and their relationship with George W. Bush when there was a “better man” for them to find. It’s one of the more crystalline moments from what was a crazy time in American politics. Thank god that’s over.