Pearl Jam played for David Letterman on The Late Show for the first time in 1996, and almost 20 years later, Eddie Vedder showed up to sing an emotional version of his band’s song “Better Man” to commemorate Letterman’s departure.
“We couldn’t be happier to have him back here with us tonight,” Letterman said.
Vedder told Spin he wrote “Better Man” “before I could drink – legally,” and though it wasn’t released as a single, it hit the top of Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and spent eight weeks there when it was released in 1994.
Vedder starts the song with just Paul Shaffer on piano before launching into a full-band arrangement backed by the rest of the CBS Orchestra. He breaks a string around the three-minute mark, but he doesn’t miss a step – check out his Pete Townshend-like windmill strums at 4:29.
“This is one we’ll remember,” Letterman says at the end of the clip, before hugging Vedder.