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Pearl Jam's 25 Best Live Covers: Stones, Beatles, Ramones & More

The Seattle alt-rock vets launch their fall tour tonight. Here's a few covers EdVed & Co. might break out

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On the Road Again...

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 02: Eddie Vedder  of Pearl Jam performs during Budweiser Made In America Festival Benefiting The
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Pearl Jam are kicking off a fall North American tour tonight (Friday, October 11) in Pittsburgh in support of their new album, Lightning Bolt. Fans filling arenas across the country can expect new tracks and plenty of classics, from "Alive" and "Even Flow" to "The Fixer," "Given to Fly" and many, many more. But any band can walk onstage and play their own material; it takes seasoned, road-tested veterans to break out a litany of covers at a moment's notice. Pearl Jam is that band. 

Over their 23-year-long career, frontman Eddie Vedder and the boys have paid homage to their heroes, from Johnny Cash to Devo, via a collection of spot-on covers. We collected the best of the best in the hopes that PJ break a few out this autumn on the road.

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The Beatles, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

Eddie Vedder recorded the Beatles' folky, Dylan-inspired ballad, originally released on 1965's Help!, for the soundtrack to the film I Am Sam. It has since become a live staple at Pearl Jam shows.

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The Rolling Stones, "Waiting on a Friend"

The Stones' melodic guitar jam "Waiting on a Friend," released on 1981's Tattoo You, entered PJ's setlist during their 2006 tour in support of their self-titled eighth album.

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Neil Young, "Harvest Moon"

Pearl Jam and Neil Young are total bros. They've performed together numerous times (including at Young's Bridge School benefit) and PJ even played on Young's 1995 album Mirror Ball. EdVed and Co. often cover Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" live, but the Seattle band's rendition of this acoustic gem, the eponymous track from 1992's Harvest Moon, is plain gorgeous.

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Bob Dylan, "Masters of War"

Pearl Jam, especially Vedder, are out-spoken critics of war and corrupt politics, so Dylan's anti-war ballad "Masters of War," originally released on 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, was a natural fit for PJ's hometown gig in 2003, recorded and released as Live at Benaroya Hall.

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The Who, "The Real Me" & "Love, Reign O'er Me"

Of the many bands PJ have covered, perhaps none have had as much of a musical influence as the Who. PJ honored the band at a VH1 special back in '08, but continue covering tracks like "Love, Reign O'er Me" live.

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Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing"

Jimi Hendrix is a Seattle native (a pilgrimage to his grave is a must for any local rock fan) and the guitar god's influence on PJ's two axemen, particularly Mike McCready, is obvious on songs like "Yellow Ledbetter." McCready often works the "Little Wing" riff into "Yellow Ledbetter," or PJ perform the Hendrix classic in its entirety. 

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The Ramones, "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"

Vedder sported a mohawk as he inducted The Ramones into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and has written numerous songs dedicated to the band that holds a special place in his heart. PJ continue to cover numerous Ramones songs, including "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."

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Bruce Springsteen, "No Surrender"

Eddie and Bruce are longtime pals, joining each other's bands onstage or jamming at big benefit gigs. PJ have covered numerous Springsteen songs over the years, but it's Vedder's solo acoustic performance of "No Surrender" that's the best, performed here in the Boss' Jersey stomping grounds.

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Pink Floyd, "Mother"

Like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters is another one of Vedder and PJ's close pals, having joined the band onstage at numerous benefit shows and special one-off gigs. PJ have covered "Another Brick in the Wall," but prefer the thoughtful and acoustic "Mother."  

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Bob Marley, "Redemption Song"

It's one of the first songs any aspiring guitarist learns: Bob Marley's simple and touching "Redemption Song." Here, Vedder performs to the track to honor what would've been the Jamaican icon's birthday.

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Johnny Cash, "25 Minutes to Go"

Not long after Johnny Cash died at 71, Pearl Jam covered one of his lesser-known tracks during their 2003 hometown gig at Benaroya Hall, released the following year as a live album.

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Van Halen, "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"

Who doesn't love a bad-ass party-metal track from Van Halen? Certainly not Pearl Jam, who have a blast (we see you, McCready!) tearing it up onstage.

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Elvis, "Can't Help Falling In Love With You"

As EdVed notes in the intro, Pearl Jam had only attempted this classic once before in Memphis, Elvis' hometown. The band tried it once again in Vegas, where the King held court for years, and totally nailed it. 

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Otis Redding & Steve Cropper, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

By this point, Pearl Jam have jammed with many of their music heroes. But at a show in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1994, the band invited a lesser-known star, Steve Crooper, onstage to perform a track he wrote with Otis Redding. Perhaps you've heard of it—it's called "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay."

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Led Zeppelin, "Going to California"

It's one thing to cover a classic Led Zeppelin song, but it's another to do it with singer Robert Plant on the mic. Here, Plant joins PJ for a rendition of the acoustic magic of "Going to California."

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Tom Petty, "I Won't Back Down"

The Gorge Amphitheater, located a few hours drive from Seattle, holds a special place in Pearl Jam's history, as the group have played the venue repeatedly over their career to sellout crowds of hometown super-fans. The band even released a seven-disc live album recorded there, called Live at the Gorge 05/06. During an '05 gig, Vedder performed a solo acoustic rendition of Petty's "I Won't Back Down," showing a new, stripped-down side to the rock classic.

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Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back in Town"

Pearl Jam have a penchant for paying tribute to their rock heroes while performing in those stars' hometowns. Case in point: PJ covering "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Irish rockers Thin Lizzy at a gig in Dublin.

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Devo, "Whip It"

For a special halloween gig in 2009 in Philadelphia, Pearl Jam all dressed up as Ohio new wave pioneers Devo and rocked out to that band's classic track "Whip It."

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Nirvana, "Teen Spirit"

When grunge exploded in the early '90s, Seattle was ground zero and Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the two reigning, and competing, kings. The bands had a well-documented tension, trading barbs in interviews (especially Cobain), but PJ rose above and began covering "Teen Spirit," among other Nirvana tracks, after Cobain's death in '94.

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The Clash, "Know Your Rights"

Like the Ramones, the Clash and especially frontman Joe Strummer were Eddie Vedder's punk heroes. When Strummer passed in 2002, the Clash's "Know Yours Rights" became a setlist regular on PJ's Riot Act Tour in 2003.

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Dead Boys, "Sonic Reducer"

"Sonic Reducer," the 1977 gem from Ohio punk band Dead Boys, has been in PJ's arsenal of covers since first performing it in the early '90s. The Seattle band continue to bust it out live, too, and in the clip above deliver it to Madison Square Garden in '03.

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MC5, "Kick Out the Jams"

It's a rock standard and Pearl Jam began performing it on the Vote for Change tour of 2004. 

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John Lennon, "Gimme Some Truth"

Lennon's original version of "Gimme Some Truth," released in 1971 on  Imagine, was a confessional protest song and PJ do it justice though offering own musical spin on it.

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AC/DC, "If You Want Blood"

When their 2009 tour landed in Australia, Pearl Jam decided to honor the country's iconic rock heroes AC/DC. During a show in Brisbane, PJ crush a rendition of "If You Want Blood" and the Aussies eat it up.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Fortunate Son"

Pearl Jam ace CCR's anti-war protest song, slide guitar and all, during an '06 Las Vegas gig.


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