Watch Eddie Vedder cover Nick Cave’s ‘The Ship Song’

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Nick Cave and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder feel like two sides of the same coin. Both dominated the 1990s alternative music scene and have endured into today. Both brought dark, gritty music to the mainstream, and both were wild on stage.

In their early days, both musicians were intimidating frontmen. In Cave’s early days as the leader of The Birthday Party, the band gained a reputation for their wild and regularly violent live shows. Even long into the 2010s, he would walk across the hands of his crowd like a messiah with complete command over his fans.

Similarly, Vedder was constantly getting into trouble for climbing lighting rigs or scaling his stages. With the same hypnotic quality, he was the 1990s take on Jim Morrison.

Both leaders of the alternative music scene, it makes sense that the two artists would look to each other for inspiration. Vedder especially seems to be a huge Nick Cave fan, given that he regularly covers one song in particular.

There’s something about Cave’s 1990 track ‘The Ship Song’ that Vedder seems to be drawn to. Maybe it’s the anthemic chorus, the almost pop-leaning instrumental, or the poetic lyricism paired with a more classic melody.

Whatever it is about the track that got under Vedder’s skin, it’s enduring. As early as 1995, Pearl Jam covered the track at their iconic Red Rocks show. After messing up the track, Vedder says, “Well, we need to work that one out a little bit.”

Clearly, they did, as the track seemed to become a mainstay in Vedder’s setlists. At his solo shows, it’s a regular addition, with videos of him performing it in 2017 and as recently as last year.

Pearl Jam have always been into adding covers to their setlist. They regularly perform their take on tracks by artists like The Who, Talking Heads, Bob Dylan, and others. But this Nick Cave song seems to have endured as a long-time favourite of Vedder’s.

“Here’s another one about relationships and love,” he said in 2023 as he introduced the song. Stripping the track back to little more than a guitar, Vedder’s take on the track is simple but beautiful. He turns it into a classic ballad and draws attention to the universality of Cave’s lyrics. 

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