Two of North America’s rock powerhouses have had a career entwined as Pearl Jam and Neil Young regularly found themselves working with one another since 1992. Back then they didn’t share the stage, floating around as part of Bob Fest but a year later, in 1993, the two artists performed a cover of Young’s classic ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ at the MTV Music Awards.
A dull and drab event in the early-90s was only highlighted by the casual and authentic connection shared between Neil Young and Pearl Jam. The duo seemed like long lost friends as they trounced across the stage delivering one of best renditions of the song we’ve ever heard.
Taking place on February 9th in 1993, the MTV Music Awards had been a sparkling celebrity event every year running up to that year’s event. But for some reason, it kind of fell flat. One undoubted highlight of the show was when Young joined Eddie Vedder and the band to provide a searing performance of the song.
The group is incredibly tight on the song and for good reason. Pearl Jam have performed the track over 100 times during their live shows and are clearly massive fans of the wonderful Mr Young, who is currently showing everybody how to grow up as an ageing rocker.
When inducting Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Vedder said of the singer: “He’s taught us a lot as a band about dignity and commitment and playing in the moment and when I hear, you know, the speeches and inducting Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa, I get, uh, I’m just really glad he’s still here. And I’m gonna (audience applauds; Eddie rolls his eyes, smiles and clutches his hand to his heart)… yeah!!
“And I think I’m gonna have to say that I don’t know if there’s been another artist that has been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame to commemorate a career that is still as vital as he is today. Some of his best songs were on his last record.”
This performance is one notable moment of many that the two acts have shared but, for us, it ranks among the best. It shows the band as fans, paying homage to their musical hero, and it shows that Neil Young is without the pretence of that moniker and, in turn, earning every aspect of that hero status.