As Pearl Jam took the Gibson Amphitheater stage for the first night of what will be two back-to-back concerts over the week, separated by an appearance at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, they were greeted with a rousing ovation, and a great many audience members never returned to their seats the rest of the night.
They opened by going back to the beginning with “Why Go” from Ten. Mike McCready wasted no time delivering a great guitar solo. It was immediately apparent this was going to be a sing-along evening because everyone shared vocals with Eddie Vedder as they would with the next song “Animal.”
The ferocious pace of “Worldwide Suicide” was sustained by “Got Some,” the first of seven songs from Backspacer. While very few sang along here, possibly being their first exposure to the song, the audience appeared into it. “Tremor Christ” had great interplay between bassist Jeff Ament and McCready. Vedder would pick up a guitar for the first time on “Force of Nature,” and “Evenflow” found McCready going Hendrix with his behind-the-head playing.
The lyrics of “Amongst The Waves” continue Vedder’s use of surf imagery. The music was in sync as the band slowed down the pace, allowing the listener more time to appreciate each moment, bringing to mind slow-motion shots from surf films. Only six nights in the tour, the songs are still new to the band as Vedder revealed when he copped to messing up the lyrics. No one cared as the band kept playing and he got back on track
Matt Cameron drums set a quick tempo on “Insignificance” and everyone tried to keep pace until the big, triple-guitar attack closed out the song. The deep cuts continued with “Rats” where Ament delivered a sweet bass line.
On stage with just McCready, Vedder rambled a bit about doctors having found metal in his system, leading to McCready playing some Iron Maiden riffs. The glorious opening of “Present Tense” rang out on this wondrous song about living in the now and letting go of the past.
you can spend your time alone, redigesting past regrets, oh
or you can come to terms and realize
you're the only one who can't forgive yourself, oh
makes much more sense to live in the present tense
The rest of the band returned to close it out with a grand send-off. It’s my favorite PJ song, so my night was made. Everything afterward was gravy.
“Big Wave” was played at a Ramones-pace. Before “The Fixer,” Vedder thanked everyone for helping Backspacer get to Number One on the charts.
During set-closer “Porch,” Vedder ran around having drinks passed up from the crowd. To show his appreciation to one woman, he used her camera to take her picture from the stage. McCready and Stone Gossard jammed together and Vedder used a guitar to bounce a light throughout the audience.
For the first encore, a four-piece string section accompanied the band for new songs “Just Breathe” and “The End,” while opener Ben Harper sat down for some slide guitar on “Red Mosquito.” After the anthem of “Black” and the intensity of “Life Wasted,” they took another quick break for a phenomenal second encore.
Some lucky young man has the best story of the night because he was pulled from the audience to share the mic with Vedder on “State Of Love And Trust.” Vedder then walked him over to watch McCready play and the kid was in complete awe as his body trembled.
After a raucous version of “Alive,” the house lights were brought up and then they capped the night with an explosive Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Vedder augmented the arrangement by tossing tambourines out into the crowd, even taking the time to sign one.
After seeing Pearl Jam in arenas and Bonnaroo, it was an absolute treat to see them in such a small venue; the Gibson holds just over six thousand. There was a greater connection to the band, the energy was palpable, and every seat in the house allowed you to clearly see them on stage. If this show was any indication, I recommend you see them when they come to your town. The only negative was they played for just over two hours, leaving plenty of great songs left unplayed.
Lastly, word of advice for those people sneaking up for better seats: don’t wear clothing that lights up and makes you easy to identify for security. In less than five minutes, I saw a guy wearing a shirt that lit up like an LED equalizer kicked out of a nearby section twice.
World Wide Suicide
Force of Nature
Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Amongst The Waves
State Of Love And Trust
Rockin' In The Free World