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What Song Should Stephen Colbert Sing With Pearl Jam on The Late Show on September 23?

On September 23rd, the guys in Pearl Jam will do something they’ve done many times before: Walk into the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, and perform a song for CBS’s The Late Show.  However, while playing whatever song they pick for the evening they’ll be watched from the other side of the stage by Stephen Colbert, not David Letterman.

For many years, The Late Show With David Letterman was the exclusive late night home of Pearl Jam.  Not Leno.  Not Conan.  Just Dave.  That was a big deal when the band was, well, a big deal.  Not so much during the Binaural/Riot Act portion of their career.   I actually like those albums, though.  In fact, I unabashedly love Pearl Jam, and was delighted to see the following announcement in the band’s most recent newsletter:

Pearl Jam will be the musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday, September 23. Also appearing that night are actor Hugh Jackman and founder of the Global Poverty Project Hugh Evans, plus Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Hugh Jackman (a Broadway song and dance man with a great Wolverine scream), Hugh Evans (a philanthropist devoted to a noble cause) and Elizabeth Warren (a Democratic Senator with a past life as a Harvard Law professor and public policy expert)…and Pearl Jam.  Given the band’s passion for social causes and liberal leanings they should feel right at home.  Plus, who doesn’t love Hugh Jackman?

In recent years, Pearl Jam’s exclusive relationship with David Letterman lapsed, and they did a week of performances on Jimmy Fallon’s show.  However, when Letterman lined up the musical guests for his final week of shows he made sure to have Eddie Vedder on for his second-to-last episode.  Of course, the resulting performance of “Betterman” backed by Paul Schaffer and his band was not exactly a career highlight for any of the involved parties (really bad time and really bad song to have the bottom string break on Vedder’s guitar), but it was a nice moment.  Now Vedder gets to personally assess Colbert’s revamped version of the Ed Sullivan Theater.

There is one possibility here that was never on the table during Letterman’s tenure: Colbert likes to sing with his musical guests, going back to the Colbert Report and already carrying over into The Late Show where he’s already sung with Paul Simon, Mavis Staples, Aloe Blacc, etc.  Of course, he didn’t rap with Kendrick Lamar or sing with Toby Keith, and in the longrun he didn’t really sing with a ton of his musical guests on the Colbert Report.  It’s just something he does every now and again.  Maybe he will and maybe he won’t do it with Pearl Jam.  Just for the heck of it, though, if Colbert does sing with Pearl Jam what song should it be?   It doesn’t even have to be a Pearl Jam song.  What if they did “Hunger Strike”, a Temple of the Dog song?  Could Stephen be Eddie’s new Chris Cornell?

Probably not.

Here’s a video of Eddie making a surprise appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman near the height of Pearl Jam’s popularity:

And now, for somewhat related reasons, here’s a video explaining how an American expat used Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” (i.e., one of the band’s most indecipherable songs, lyric wise) to teach Ethiopians kids English.  Now they all love Pearl Jam.  I have seen the band in concert multiple times, yet watching this video might be the first time I’ve ever understood every line of “Even Flow” since I first read the lyric sheet on the album Ten in the mid-90s.  :


    1. Given everything I already said in the article, I obviously deeply disagree with you, but I do love all the cover songs Pearl Jam has done over the years. R ITF is one they often play when they have a guest musician with them, like how eddie and bono have traded lyrics on it multiple times. It would be an odd choice, but I could see “Last Kiss” being something colbert could sound good on.

    2. Pearl Jam’s best songs were conceived by them, you total DULT!
      Rockin in the free world, while has great meaning but it is somewhat a terrible song.

      Neil Young, whom I am a fan does get trounced by Pearl Jam!
      yes they are friends..

      Pearl Jam : “Sad” ‘Given to Fly’ ‘Man of the Hour’ all PJ penned creations ..

      Nice try Elwyn, u no nothing thing nerd.

      1. Thanks for the constructive criticism. So what if they are “friends” (who haven’t really had much to do with each other since “Mirror Ball” and “Merkin Ball”). Stephen Stills and Neil Young were friends too and we saw how the “eat a peach” comment went down.

        “Last Kiss” was their second best song.

        Also, it is “know nothing”. Learn English.

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