December 21, 1998 12:00 PM

Pearl Jam (Epic)

Album of the week

Eddie Vedder is no more. The diminutive singer has dropped the diminutive from his first name so that the liner notes to this, the first live album in Pearl Jam’s eight-year history, attribute his vocals and guitar work to one Ed Vedder. The name change may indicate new maturity—or maybe just a loss of innocence when it comes to the music business. Having dropped a four-year crusade against Ticketmaster that had resulted in the cancellation of some 1995 shows, Vedder and his four bandmates allowed the ticketing agency to handle some of the tour that this album chronicles. But fans needn’t fret. If Vedder has tempered his idealism, he has not abandoned his passion. “I don’t wanna think/ I wanna feel,” he sings at his emotive best on “Hail, Hail.” And he still belts his anthems of angst (“Daughter,” “Better Man”) as if the emotions were being wrung from him on the spot. Thanks in part to drummer Jack Irons, whose timekeeping allows the guitars more room to breathe, Pearl Jam’s once dense, almost suffocating sound is lightened. And although Eddie, er, Ed, could use a backup singer to reduce his vocal load, it is heartening to know he is out there, fists clenched, howling, growling and yearning. Bottom Line: Last of the great grunge bands keeps the flannel flag flying

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