By Mandy Jenkins
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Jeff Ament may not be Robert Plant, but he, too, has his hand in America's music culture, whether he acknowledges it or not.
Due to high water at Riverbend Music Center, the Pearl Jam/Idlewild concert for June 19 has been cancelled. Ticket holders can get refunds at their place of purchase. For more information, see
As a founding member of both Green River and Mother Love Bone, singer/songwriter/bassist Ament was part of the beginnings of a sound called grunge before Nirvana's Kurt Cobain wore his first flannel. Not to mention his part in the 1991 creation of Pearl Jam, which kick-started alternative rock and influenced the sound of bands such as Silverchair, Creed and Puddle of Mudd.
We caught up with Ament to get the lowdown on the controversial new tour.
Question: So how has the tour been so far?
Answer: It's already kind of blown away my expectations on a lot of different levels.
I think if you'd asked me that in the beginning of this tour, before we'd done any shows, I couldn't have imagined that there would be as much activity and ammo for people to talk about.
Q: Speaking of that, it was reported fans walked out of a show in April during the performance of "Bushleaguer." What happened?
A: Nobody in our crew or in the band noticed anything happening in Denver. That was one reporter talking to what he said was five people who were upset. I think people are missing the boat when they still get upset about it.
But I like the fact that we did get a reaction, and "Bushleaguer" has this whole new meaning and a life of its own. I love the fact that it was a comedic take on our president - I think 10 years ago we would have written a more angry song.
Q: Pearl Jam usually does a few classic covers on tour, including songs by the Who and the Ramones. How do you select those?
A: I think it's mostly a tip of our hat to artists that we love.
And now that we can play about 20 different covers on any given night, if it will have added meaning to play that song, we'll pull that song out of the hat.
Q: Do you have any songs you'd still like to try?
A: I thought AC/DC's "If You Want Blood, You've Got It" would be a great song. It would be a different kind of song for us. It would be kind of a cool confrontational kind of song where, if it was the right night, you could pull that out and it would take on all sorts of meaning.
Q: How has touring changed for you since the early days of the band?
A: I would say the first three years we toured, I was in heaven. In every city I would wake up early; I'd bring my mountain bike out with me and check out the city. Now, just having done it 12 or 13 years, I'm probably a little bit more jaded. Its probably our seventh or eighth time playing in Cincinnati, so it doesn't hold that same kind of magic it did when I rode my bike down from the Motel 6 in a snowstorm 10 years ago.
Q: Has the band itself changed?
A: I think we're better musicians and we're better songwriters. In particular with this record, I really sensed that (lead vocalist Eddie Vedder) had taken on a lot of different voices with a lot of different characteristics.
That's the reason we're still a band, because we can still sense that growth in each other and we still think that we can make our best record.
We're probably not as good as Zeppelin was in their heyday, but we're still a pretty good live rock band.
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