Neil Young‘s decision to record an album with Pearl Jam in 1995 caused all sorts of problems. The three members of Crazy Horse were under the impression that Young planned on touring with them in support of their album Sleeps With Angels, and Epic didn’t love the idea of Pearl Jam releasing material with a different label. In the end, Crazy Horse got pushed aside and Epic allowed the record to come out, as long as Pearl Jam’s name appeared nowhere on the cover and Eddie Vedder’s original songs weren’t included.
That last condition was easy, since Eddie Vedder’s involvement in the project was rather minimal. At the time, he was highly distracted by a situation with a stalker that had grown completely out of control. “Someone who had severe mental problems and chemical imbalances ended up targeting me and thinking that all the songs were written about her and that I was the father of her two children, and that the kids were products of rape, and that I was Jesus and that Jesus rapes,” Vedder told Rolling Stone in 2006. “Everyone says, ‘Fame, blah, blah, blah.’ No, no. This is not fame. This is physical threats upon your life.”
Mirror Ball was cut over just a few days in late January and early February of 1995 at Heart’s studio in Seattle. It came out in June, and in August they headed to Europe (minus Vedder) for an 11-date tour. The shows were absolutely sensational. They didn’t do a single song from the Pearl Jam catalog, instead playing much of Mirror Ball along with Neil Young classics like “Powderfinger,” “Like a Hurricane” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.” (Longtime Pearl Jam producer Brendan O’Brien joined the band on organ.)
Much to the chagrin of fans (but to the joy of Crazy Horse), the brief tour never made it to America. When it wrapped in late August, Pearl Jam resumed work on No Code and Neil Young got back together with Crazy Horse to cut Broken Arrow and launch a much-delayed American tour. The brief Neil Young/Pearl Jam tour has been largely forgotten, but thanks to the magic of YouTube everyone can finally see it. Some kind soul even uploaded the entire August 18th, 1995 show from Salzburg, Austria. The picture isn’t always great, but the sound is pretty clear for a recording of this nature.
The entire show is pretty stellar, but fast-forward to 1:17:15 for a jaw-dropping “Cortez the Killer” followed by an equally great “Powderfinger.”