Film Review: Let’s Play Two: Pearl Jam Live at Wrigley Field

A decent concert film but also a touching tribute to Eddie Vedder’s childhood love for the Chicago Cubs, which should make it a favorite among Pearl Jam and Cubs fans alike.
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When you think of Chicago sports fans, you might flash on the overweight guys made famous in the “Saturday Night Live” sketches. You’re less likely to think of an activist/rocker like Eddie Vedder, but in fact Vedder grew up in Chicago as an avid Chicago Cubs fan.

In 2016, the band played two nights at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, during the Cubs’ best season in decades, and it seemed appropriate to document it in a movie directed by Danny Clinch that is way more than just a mere concert doc.

There probably isn’t a lot more than you need to know before deciding whether to see Let’s Play Two, the title of the film coming from a saying by “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, who hit 500 homers and was able to appear with Pearl Jam at their 2013 Wrigley Field show before he died.

The signs of a good concert film are when it makes you more interested in a band in which you had no interest prior. I never really thought much of Pearl Jam until I watched Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam Twenty and began to understand that Eddie Vedder and his bandmates were very much a musicians’ band whose songs connected with millions across the globe.

The movie basically jumps between highlights from the two nights when the band played two completely different sets—one of the shows is even halted for three hours due to weather without losing a single fan. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Pearl Jam’s vast catalog, there’s enough to keep one entertained, as Clinch intercuts the live shows with the Cubs’ amazing path to the 2016 World Series, their first championship in 70 years. Vedder spends much of the film reminiscing about seeing the Cubs when he was younger, but also talking about the team’s bad luck leading up to this championship season. (In 2013, Vedder even wrote an appropriate song called “All the Way” about the Cubs.)

Clinch’s cameras effectively capture the massive size of the live production and the crowd at the concert, balanced by more intimate moments with the band and their fans—the group plays an impromptu acoustic set on a nearby roof for the lucky fans gathered below. Some of the fans get very emotional during the show, and when you start contrasting them with those of the Cubs, you wind up with a documentary that’s far more layered than might be expected.

Sure, there’s also a cameo by Dennis Rodman, but when Steve Gleason, star of one of last year’s best docs and friend of guitarist Mike McCready, comes onstage, it’s impossible not to get as emotional as the Jam fans.

Let’s Play Two is a solid two-hour concert doc, regardless of whether you like Pearl Jam’s music or not. The way Clinch establishes the setting and mood for their concert, intermingling it with Cubs lore and Vedder’s own history with the team, makes it a very special film indeed.

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