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Pearl Jam live!

| August 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

United Center, Chicago
Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

pearljam_baran
 

“We got a lot of emotion to get through tonight.” That was Eddie Vedder’s declaration to open Sunday night’s show, the first of two consecutive nights for Pearl Jam at the United Center. For Vedder, it wasn’t just another arena-rock show, but it also marked his return to sweet home Chicago, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to be here.

Vedder made multiple references to his hometown throughout the night, from listening to music in his basement in Evanston, to waiting in the bitter cold to ride the CTA, to listing numerous Chicago suburbs as his “small town” intro to “Elderly Woman.” Of course all the pro-Chicago hype only infused an already ecstatic sold-out crowd.
 
To Pearl Jam’s credit, even this far into their impressive career, they didn’t take the easy road by mindlessly playing through a set of their most popular hits. (Expected songs like “Jeremy,” “Black,” “Daughter,” “Animal,” and “Betterman” were all conspicuously missing.) Rather, this show seemed devoted to the hardcore fans, as Vedder & Co. rocked through tracks through nearly every album from their debut to the forthcoming *Backspacer*. Of course there were a few crowd-pleasing sing-along classics sprinkled throughout (“Corduroy,” “Alive,” “Evenflow,” “Dissident,” “Given To Fly”), but most of the night belonged to deeper cuts, many of which only about half the crowd were familiar with. Between the unexpected opener “Long Road” and the unexpected closing set of “Insignificance,” “Got Some,” and “Spin The Black Circle,” the band treated loyal fans to lesser-known gems like “God’s Dice,” “Rats,” “Save You,” “Smile,” and “In Hiding.”
 
Always a fan of covers, Vedder took the opportunity of the two encores to play a few of his favorites, which included two different Who selections (“Love Reign O’er Me” and “The Real Me”), and a Neil Young tune (“The Needle & The Damage Done”), which Vedder set up as a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, whom he said “feels like we lost a long time ago.”
 
The night closed with the now-traditional “Yellow Ledbetter” complete with a Mike McCready guitar solo, which found him completely entranced as he wailed out the electric chords of our national anthem. Vedder closed the night by asking the crowd “Did we do O.K.?” either proving his humility, or his unsated thirst for affirmation.
 
Though backed by an amazing band, Vedder is a frontman in the truest sense of the word, and it’s on his back that the show rests. He looked just like he did in the “Jeremy” video 15 years ago (only with a few more wrinkles and a little more facial hair), as though the years of fame haven’t messed him too much. And no one can question the amount of conviction, authenticity, and passion he belts out every song with, even the ones he’s performing for the thousandth time.
 
Classic punk-rockers Bad Religion opened the night with a 45-minute set that seemed about three or four songs too long. They reminisced about their 30-year career (yeah, they’re that old) and about playing with Pearl Jam 13 years ago at Soldier Field. The band was solid and certainly satisfied the half-full arena, but unfortunately their age showed a bit (and not just in Greg Gaffin’s balding head), as Gaffin’s stage presence was much more subdued and his vocal chops lacked the rebelliousness of the early days.
 
Carter Moss

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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