The purpose of a documentary is two fold, first and fore most is to be objective and second is to tell the truth in it’s telling of a particular story. Cameron Crowe played a little loose with the first rule in his documentary Pearl Jam Twenty but that doesn’t make the story any unless true. It also doesn’t mean the story is any less effective. Cameron Crowe is a fan and the film is a tribute to what may be one of the greatest American rock bands, dare I say, of all time.
If there is anyone with the qualifications to tell this story it is Cameron Crowe and no one else. Having been a rock journalist since the age of 16, yes folks Almost Famous was plausible and is mostly true, Crowe spent time in Seattle at it’s most pivotal in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This is where Crowe begins telling the story of Pearl Jam.
We first meet it’s preliminary members as they are beginning their journey in the wildly popular local band, Mother Love Bone. Mother Love Bone has the most charismatic front man, who was destined for stardom. After recording their first album tragedy would strike the group. Andy Wood, the entertaining lead singer, who had a serious battling addiction with drugs would succumb to that addiction.
Trying to cope with the loss of Andy, the two key members of Mother Love Bone, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament each struggled with what to do with life after Mother Love Bone. Stone met Mike McCready and after some convincing has Ament join them in forming a new band. This is where the search for a new lead singer begins and where a whole generation would find what would become it’s voice. After getting a tape with a voice unlike anything Mother Love Bone was, the new band had it’s front man in a young,surfing security guard from San Diego named Eddie Vedder.
Crowe then takes you on the whirlwind journey of the explosion that happened once the world caught a glimpse of Pearl Jam, formerly known as Mookie Blaylock, as they embarked on cross world tours pulling in fans from every show they played. After nearly wearing themselves out on tour after tour one thing always remained true, the music. One thing for Pearl Jam quickly became evident and that was their loyalty to their fans and that they were gonna pour every ounce they had inside them out on the stage every night.
Crowe documents their epic battle with Ticketmaster to the unbelievable pain felt at Roskilde Festival when 9 fans were trampled to death leaving the band questioning what they were doing. Thru the highs and lows they maintained their integrity and remained true to themselves. they have since emerged as one of the most respected and appreciated American bands of all time. They maintained a longevity not seen amongst American rock bands.
Crowe shows Pearl Jam as just what they are, artist. They do what they do for the love of their art and craft. Eddie Vedder’s voice has become the soundtrack for so many over their last 20 years and he has always never shied away from being personal in lyrics and music and with his fans. They have stood beside their beliefs and convictions despite fan reaction.
Crowe’s film is a true love letter to a group that has stood the test of time. It may not be the most objective piece that you may expect from a former journalist but the film was not made in an effort to discover a band, rather it was made to honor them. Cameron is a fan and he had an opportunity to do what many fans wish they could do on a great stage. Set to a magnificent soundtrack of live music from the band and with footage that bleeds through the screen the power that is a Pearl Jam live show, Twenty does exactly what it sets out to do. It is a fine documentary of a shinning light in American rock music history.