Pearl Jam are unquestionably one of the greatest stadium rock outfits around, a band who can fill any venue across the world at any given time. Forced to learn how to deal with huge sized crowds by getting thrown in at the deep end, Pearl Jam solidified their status with a rousing performance on the main stage slot at Lollapalooza in 1992.
The rise of Pearl Jam is truly fascinating. Their monumental set at the travelling circus that was Lollapalooza ’92 played a pivotal role in establishing their dominance for decades to come. The festival was launched by Jane’s Addiction a year prior but was originally planned as a one-off farewell tour before they went their separate ways. To mark the occasion, they invited a selection of their favourite acts along with them for the ride such as Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T and Body Count, Henry Rollins and Siouxie And The Banshees but the second incarnation of the festival would see it become an institution, with Pearl Jam playing a key role.
For the 1992 festival, organisers launched a side-stage which welcomed performances from the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill and many more whereas the main stage would see a headline performance from Red Hot Chili Peppers every evening. Despite the Chili’s excellent performance night in and night out, it was an obscure band from Seattle who would steal the show.
In the year prior to the event, Pearl Jam had released their debut record Ten which is now widely viewed as one of the greatest records of the ’90s. However, it failed to land upon and struggled commercially. It would be over 12 months later, following incessant touring, when word spread about Pearl Jam’s insane ability as a live-act—a factor that would finally propel Ten into the Top 10 in the US album charts.
One of the new fans they had amassed during this period was Jane Addiction’s Perry Farrell who added the band to the festival and he wouldn’t regret this decision. Taking the slot was a no-brainer for Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder said in the band’s biography Pearl Jam Twenty: “Playing to people that you’d never played to before, it was like, You know what? We’re going to play, we’re going to take this to some level that people aren’t going to forget. If that means risking your life to do something that they won’t forget in some kind of adolescent, Evel Knievel way, we’re gonna do it.”
Even though Ten was riding high in the charts, Pearl Jam was given a spot second from the bottom on the Lollapalooza billing and would take to the stage around 2pm. Bassist Jeff Ament recalled the tour to Uproxx: “A couple of weeks before the tour there was an opportunity for us to renegotiate, not just the money, but the time slot. But we were like, ‘Nah, we don’t want any added pressure to this situation.’”
Adding: “We still have an absolute blast playing shows, but I don’t know that we’ve ever had more fun on a tour. We were playing intense shows, but within an hour, I’d be playing basketball with Flea and Ice Cube.”
The tour was an astounding success, with Farrell telling Rolling Stone in 1992 after it finished: “What Lollapalooza II has proved is that there is a serious market for a youth counterculture. The good news is that these people will sooner or later be in positions of prominence, and we have taken them to school.”
Pearl Jam’s part in the success of the institution that is Lollapalooza really can’t be played down and this rare footage filmed on stage during one of their shows on the tour perfectly encapsulates the madness that would ensue when they stepped foot on stage.