A few months back I wrote that U2 was one of the greatest live bands I’ve seen. Pearl Jam’s stage show at Wrigley Field was as good, or better.
With music spanning nearly three decades, PJ has a catalog as deep as U2’s, and a raw energy that is unparalleled.
It’s been awhile since I saw them live. As a kid, I saw them perform during the original Lollapalooza at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. At the time they had one album out, Ten, and an EP for Alive that included a few b-sides. Who would’ve thought that one of those unreleased songs, “Wash,” would be the opener at Wrigley Field, some 26 years later? Pretty amazing to think about.
During the opener, all of these memories came rushing back to me. From that first Lolla performance in Wisconsin where they played “Baba O’Riley,” aka “Teenage Wasteland,” to that Chicago show at the Aragon Brallroom where they opened for the Smashing Pumpkins, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magic tour) and teased “Smells Like Teen Spirit.“ A smiling Vedder told the crowd, “Some friends of ours wrote that song.” This was the start of Nirvana’s ascension, and the makings of a world takeover for PJ. Just a really cool moment in time.
Here are 10 other great moments from the Pearl Jam show at Wrigley Field:
1.) “Even Flow” -That breakdown is everything. You know that part in the bridge where the guitar goes “da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da, “ right before Eddie goes back into the chorus and screams “Even flow/Thoughts arrive like butterflies.” It grabs your attention. It made me think about how far they’ve come, and how they can still perform these songs with as much fire as they did thirty yeras ago.
2.) “Corduroy”- “Everything has chains absolutely nothings changed/Take my hand not my picture spill my tincture.” Enough said.
3.) “Hail, Hail”-Eddie is screaming “Hail, Hail,” over this searing, punk rock riff, and then there’s this beautiful moment of release. “Sometimes realize, I can only be as good as you let me.” That bridge happens just one time, but as a fan you wait for it, as it’s the best part of the whole song. Are we seeing a pattern yet?
4.) “Garden of Stone” -This song has always felt like a Temple of the Dog song to me. Eddie does some belting here and it really made the whole crowd want to sing. Gave me cold chills. “I will walk, with my hands bound/I will walk, with my face blood/I will walk, with my shadow flag/Into your garden/Garden of stone.”
5.) “Wish”- It had a different vibe tonight. It felt rocked up, with an uncertain immediacy, which sounded great.
6.) “Porch” -They do this crazy instrument part in the middle which was fucking unbelievable. One of my favorite PJ songs of all time.
7.) “State of Love and Trust” -They played it! Remember the Singles soundtrack? How many great songs were on there, and then Pearl Jam shows up, with a monster song (actually two monster songs) to tide fans over until their sophomore album dropped. Check out the lyrics and let them ruminate a moment.
8.) “Rockin’ in the Free World” -You think Mike McCready is the best guitar player on earth, and then you hear Stone Gossard play this. I’m not a huge Neil Young fan but I was BLOWN AWAY by Stone’s tone and his touch on this cover. This is a whole new version, a better version for Gen X!
9.) “Yellow Ledbetter” -The guitar tones are so pourous and rich. Hendrix is ALIVE! McCready has such a grasp on his sound. It’s like the two best guitar players on earth are in this band. It’s almost unfair.
10.) “I Won’t Back Down” -For nostalgia, this was a cool cover. Played with a guitar that was a gift from Tom Petty, Eddie Vedder nearly brought tears to the audience as he sang this alone with an electric guitar.
Is Pearl Jam the best band in the world? Damn close! Check out Eddie singing “Animal” all these years later.
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