Pearl Jam Still Rock Solid As They Kick Off New Tour
Pearl Jam hit the windy city in all their glory Sunday night for what was originally supposed to be one of a handful of US appearances that has now evolved into a larger scope tour in support of their newest record Backspacer. The last time Pearl Jam played here, it was the headline spot on Lollapalooza in 2007. This time they brought their no-holds barred show indoors to the United Center (although it appears the band was attempting to have these shows at Alpine Valley). For over two hours, the band ripped through a muscular twenty-seven song set that left the heavy-in-attendance Ten Club (Pearl Jam's fan club) crowd in pure ecstasy.
Opening with "Long Road" from 1995 (done for the Merkin Ball/ Mirror Ball project with Neil Young) was especially poignant and featured Vedder capturing magic inside of an arena. From the first goose bump inducing notes to the final note of Mike McCready's "Star Spangled Banner" coda to "Yellow Ledbetter" the band hit all the right emotional notes for the fan club intensive crowd. However, it doesn't mean the evening was not without some pacing issues.
The show featured confounding highs; a deafening "Corduroy", the raging "God's Dice", the melancholy "Small Town", the spiritually soaring "Given To Fly and a longing "Dissident" where Vedder's vocals proved to be as incandescent as they ever have. "Come Back" featured the band evoking Motown soul in the 2006 track in a way to oozed, drained and dripped soul. "Rearviewmirror" was received with a tidal wave of rejuvenation as the arena shook while "Smile" (which featured Gossard and Ament switching instruments) was pining and passive. During a particularly concentrated performance of "Insignificance" it became evident what a tight knit group of musicians they are. When they hit the stage, they have the sway and the leeway to pull anything out from their back pocket and convey it in a performance that most acts would fall on their face doing. "Sad" reverberated with the crowd on this lost track from Lost Dogs. "Man of the Hour" was tender while a pair of Who covers lifted the roof; "Love, Reign o'er Me" and "The Real Me". Artists will often rely on covers for a money shot of sorts, but not Pearl Jam. You can tell when an artist is performing a song for a reaction or trying to emulate its inner soul. Pearl Jam does the latter. Vedder spoke of listening to Quadrophenia while waiting for the train to take him home to Evanston as a youth. The whole evening was sprinkled with cool stories and anecdotes from Vedder about his childhood and hometown adding to the intimacy. The second encore opened with Vedder performing a stunning rendition of the Neil Young song "The Needle And The Damage Done", a fresh cover which found Vedder talking about Michael Jackson and listening to him in Evanston. - Read the full review here
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