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Live Review: Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden • New York

| September 13, 2022


Pearl Jam


Pearl Jam
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
September 11, 2022

Review and live photo by Curt Baran

Anything that takes place on September 11th in New York City is obviously going to carry with it a significant amount of gravitas. Be it the memorial events down in lower Manhattan or something as commonplace as a backyard barbecue, and the looming heaviness is always palpable. So when Pearl Jam took the stage at the hallowed ground that is Madison Square Garden this past weekend, it certainly helped to break the tension that hung in the air. Originally scheduled for March of 2020 (then derailed by COVID), the fact that anyone managed to make it back at all felt like some sort of victory.


L to R: Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder

Looking to find that balance between respectful and celebratory, the Seattle quintet eased into their performance. The melancholy opener “Release” was executed with an almost unplugged aesthetic. It found the band playing electric but doing so seated. Singer Eddie Vedder addressed the faithful before starting the mood appropriate “Come Back,” exclaiming, “We have a lot to talk about this evening, but we’ll get to all of that soon.” A few chords in, he abruptly stopped the song, stating with an affirming laugh, “Actually, let’s talk about it now.” He would go on to recognize not only the significance of the day but the First Responders in attendance that evening and graciously thank everyone for their patience in somehow managing to find their back to what, for the next few hours, would be made to feel like sacred space. The band let the momentum of the set build slowly, but once they finally hit the gas pedal, it was as if the past slipped away.

By the fourth song (“Present Tense”), only Vedder remained seated. The mood had flipped from maudlin and uncertain to celebratory and raucous. Escapism had arrived in the form of cathartic singalongs. The band faced the back of the stage during “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town,” giving the cheap seats their own living room concert. “Better Man” had the entirety of its first verse offered up as audience participation. Guitarist’s Stone Gossard and Mike McCready were a study in contrasts during “Even Flow.” Gossard stood stoic as he churned out the songs now ubiquitous, rock radio riff, seemingly oblivious to the cacophony subsuming him. Meanwhile McCready acted out like a younger brother on a sugar rush, running in circles and thrashing about as drummer Matt Cameron somehow kept the chaos glued together.

A cover of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” paid tribute to the CBGB-era of the Lower East side, and “Alive,” well, that proved to be self-explanatory. “You know, when we booked this tour, we only had three dates scheduled in Canada before tonight. At some point, a fourth was added,” Vedder detailed at one point. “I’m pretty sure the money we made from that one is going to cover the fine for playing past the Garden’s curfew!” With the house lights up, the band smoldered through a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World,” completing the brief, badly needed respite from a day filled with reflection, sadness, and a hopeful look to the future.

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews

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