Highlighting Pearl Jam’s two-night stint at Wrigley Field, which coincided with the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory in 2016, Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two is a unique cross between a concert film and a baseball documentary. Let’s call it a bassball movie.
Although Pearl Jam formed in Seattle, grunge central, frontman Eddie Vedder is from Chicago and a lifetime Cubs fan. This gives the film a sweet, homecoming vibe, made all the more significant by the 108 years the team and its fans waited for this win; the longest drought in the history of American pro sports. Superstitious Chicagoans blamed this epic losing streak on the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat, cast upon Wrigley Field in 1945 by an embittered fan who was asked to leave the park because the smell of his pet goat was bothering the other supporters. Hang on, isn’t that the plot of Drag Me to Hell?
Vedder is shown to be loyal and funny (“I don’t believe in goats”), not to mention possessing one of the greatest voices in rock, still sounding brilliant now he’s in his 50s. But the film also captures Pearl Jam at the most established and least interesting they’ve ever been, although they can still bring more white men to tears than the #MeToo movement. Arguably more impressive than the uninspired setlist is the roster of special guests, including one of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s mutual friends, Dennis Rodman. Low-quality footage of the group’s first Chicago gig back in 1991 reminds us of the electrifying grunge band Pearl Jam once was, and while one can’t expect the same stage-jumping madness from a bunch of 50-year-olds, the music is the least involving thing about this picture.
More invigorating is the sense of community orbiting Wrigley Field, which incidentally is second only to the KFC Yum! Center in terms of horrible names for places you might have a rock concert. Director Danny Clinch warmly photographs the customised rooftops surrounding the stadium where ticketless fans position themselves, and where Pearl Jam perform an intimate set in one of the film’s more memorable musical moments. Sharing the documentary’s sense of family, Pearl Jam are the perfect fit; deeply human, painfully earnest and as American as apple pie and high school shootings, the subject of their classic song ‘Jeremy’.
The music and sporting threads are so lovingly intertwined that even a sportaphobe like me (my sole baseball memory involves tackling a pretzel the size of my head at Yankee Stadium) can recognise this as a couple of very special nights. As an uplifting double, Let’s Play Two knocks it out of the park.