It's Time to Grunge Up the Super Bowl

Pearl Jam Should Get To Headline A Super Bowl Halftime
Kevin Mazur. Getty Images.Pearl Jam should absolutely get to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show.I’m not saying they will get to perform at a halftime show. I think that opportunity has passed. The…

I've made a few jokes about this over the years as well. But it's not actually a joke, Pearl Jam really should, at some point, be asked to play a Super Bowl halftime show. And with the 1990s nostalgia – Jesus Christ, can you believe the 90s were three decades ago – now swinging back around, as these things tend to do, now would be a good time.

If you grew up in the 1990's, alternative music was the king of most the decade. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys and Pearl Jam owned a huge part of that time for a ton of people. Sadly, most of them are all gone. To be fair, the Chili Peppers was a featured guest during the great Bruno Mars performance in 2014. But what the fuck are we talking about? The fucking Black Eyed Peas got a halftime show.

Super Bowl halftime shows are a funny thing. The ones people seem to rate the highest are a mixture of contemporary and nostalgia. It's obviously important that you have hit songs, but it seems equally important that you have songs which are known by the wide population, in a way that only older hit songs can be. That's why Beyonce works so well (I was there when the lights went out!), she can play the hits and the new stuff. This year, Usher was a bit more nostalgia. But not as much as say, The Rolling Stones.

Anyway, I generally agree that the window has probably closed for Pearl Jam, sadly. Maybe if the new album – due out this April! – really hits, they can make some sort of case. But it seems far more likely that a band like the more contemporary but in the general vein, Foo Fighters, get the ask at some point.

Like I said, this isn't a Pearl Jam issue. It's about the 90's getting some respect. I guess that's why I care about this. Would Nirvana have gotten a shot had Kurt Cobain lived? Maybe. They were bigger than Pearl Jam for sure at the time but it really was closer than you may think. Foo Fighters has a better chance than Pearl Jam of getting on the Super Bowl stage. But Foo Fighters were more of a product of the post-grunge era. Maybe if that happened, Dave Grohl could bring Krist Novoselic up for a Nirvana tribute?

That would be pretty great. And you could totally see it happening. Maybe Pearl Jam and the other grunge-era bands could get up on stage too. A Temple of the Dog reunion is sadly now beyond us. As are so many of those bands.

Until then, I'm left to imagine what PJ's set list would be. It's not the biggest hit but starting with Breakerfall would be awesome. Got to play Jeremy, Black, Corduroy and Elderly Woman somewhere in that set? Finish with Yellow Ledbetter?

I mean, those are great songs. But there's no way that's the set list. This is the Super Bowl, my dude. "Black" is without question one of Pearl Jam's best songs, but half the stadium would be sobbing. "Yellow Ledbetter" is my, like so many true Pearl Jam fans, favorite song, but it's incoherent and too slow. It would be:1

To be clear, these are not my list of favorite Pearl Jam songs (though all are great, of course), but what I think would play – quite literally – with such an audience. (And a few of these would need to be quicker medleys, obviously – I picked too many songs!) You need upbeat, faster arena/stadium rock, with one power ballad mixed in for the lighters to come out – I mean just watch this. It's obviously pretty back catalog-heavy, but again, you need to know the audience here. And you blow the doors out to close the set – which is what Pearl Jam, long seen as one of the best live acts of all time, does every show. Always has.

I think this would be great.

1 I would have had "World Wide Suicide" in that set list, but the title alone is probably too dark for the broadcast. "Last Kiss" is by some metrics, humorously, Pearl Jam's biggest hit, but hard to see that here! You could make a case for something like "Animal" thanks to a resurgence with The Bear!

2 Fine, one more bonus track: "Baba O'Riley" (with The Who! Who says "no"?!)