Little Big Town may currently be riding the charts with their Taylor Swift-written single “Better Man,” but on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington, Eric Church resurrected another “Better Man” – the one from Pearl Jam’s 1994 LP Vitalogy. Thirty minutes outside of Seattle, the city that bred Pearl Jam, Church played a version of the song that highlighted its flexible yet haunting composition: despite some lyrical flubs and a sleepier bridge, his twangy growl made a nice stand in for Eddie Vedder’s signature booming baritone.
As part of his stripped-down yet marathon-in-length Holdin’ My Own Tour, Church has been playing a very limited collection of covers – Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the Band’s “Don’t Do It” are two recent choices – amongst his own hits and deep cuts. Though admittedly a Pearl Jam fan, this is the first time he’s tackled “Better Man,” which spent eight weeks at Number One despite never being officially released as a single. It was the appropriate geographic choice, but also a thematic one – Mr. Misunderstood is all about the joy of hearing music straight from the acetate, and Vitalogy was released on vinyl two weeks before the CD version, holding the record for vinyl sales until Jack White’s Lazaretto broke it in 2014.
Eric Church’s Holdin’ My Own Tour continues through May, hitting Phoenix, Arizona tomorrow night.