The last part of our Friday was spent at the show of the summer: Pearl Jam at Fenway Park. We have been looking forward to this show since it was announced way back in March and even more so after catching a show in Hampton, VA early in the tour.
We got into Boston about 6:15 and got into the park about 6:45. Having never sat in the State Street Pavilion area, we had no idea what to expect. The section was great for us, as we had roomy seats with a table, which was perfect with Cam in tow.
We had hot dogs, sausage and chicken fingers while we awaited PJ’s appearance on stage, which came about 7:40.As usual, Eddie Vedder and company started mellow, opening with a powerful version of”Release”, during which Vedder frequently smiled and gestured with the audience. The mellow vibe continued through “Long Road”, the singalong “Elderly Woman”, “Low Light” and “All Those Yesterdays”.
The band kicked into full gear with “Given to Fly”, which is one of their strongest live songs. Vedder encouraged the crowd to get involved vocally and physically, and arms were raised and bodies bounced through Fenway. PJ continued to sample their vast catalog with “Mind Your Manners” from Lightning Bolt, “Daughter” (with a snippet of my favorite PJ live song, “W.M.A. — which never gets performed) from Vs., and “Why Go” and “Even Flow” from Ten.The opening set continued to fire with emotion and electricity with “I am Mine”, “Do the Evolution”, “Down”, a rocking rendition of Steven Zan Zandt’s acoustic classic, “I am a Patriot”, a strong cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”, and ending with crowd-favorite “Porch.”
After a brief break, Vedder reappeared for a few acoustic songs, the nmost notable being the second-ever live performance of “Strangest Tribe.” Though not my favorite tune, it was cool to hear it live. “Society” and “Just Breathe” were other highlights of the acoustic set.
The band went full tilt to the finish line with “Life Wasted” and “State of Love and Trust” before yet another cover, this time Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, which went on way too long. The band went off the set list, eliminating a couple songs but adding “Corduroy”.The encore was too cover-laden for my tastes: “I’ve Got a Feeling” was done by request, so that was cool, but “Draw the Line” by Aerosmith was unnecessary pandering to the Boston crowd (as was bringing out Boston sportswriter Peter Gammons, and former Red Sox players Bronson Arroyo and Kevin Youkilis, despite the pun on “uke”). I would have rather listened to the scratched tunes (“Lightning Bolt” and “Unthought Known” than listen to a mid-level Aerosmith song (I guess it beats anything the vastly overrated Boston band has recorded in recent years).
“Alive” was the only original in the four-song encore, which was capped with a Pearl Jam tradition of “Baba O’Riley”. Vedder tossed tambourines to the crowd as the band worked its way through the anthem, which has the crowd singing at full volume.
- Our seats and the staff at Fenway. I normally hate Fenway (sight lines are terrible, seats are terrible, it smells) but the staff was great. One usher in particular noticed Cam had issues with the stairs and informed us of an elevator right behind our seating area for a quick post-concert escape.
- The crowd was fantastic. Unlike other shows we have seen at Fenway (Tom Petty), this crowd was pretty cool and not douche-tastic.
- Getting to see a rare performance of “Strangest Tribe”
- “I am Mine”, “State of Love and Trust” and “Given to Fly” are always highlights
- The brief snippet of “W.M.A.”, a song that should get more live performances
- “Even Flow”, which brought Cam to his feet
- The electric version of “I am a Patriot” and the second-set closing of “Corduroy”
- Eddie’s 21 shirt. After a bit of researching, it appears to be a tribute to Roberto Clemente, as Boom Gaspar has definitely worn a 21 shirt in the past in tribute to Clemente and Vedder has had 21 stickers on his guitar to honor the legendary ballplayer.
Things I’d rather change …
- No need for Bronson Arroyo at all, never mind on acoustic guitar, or having Kevin Youkilis speak.
- Excessive number of covers. One or two are fine, but to have a six-minute rendition of “Comfortably Numb” and cut two great PJ originals for it is too much.
The atmosphere was an A+, the band and vocals were an A+, and the setlist was an A-.
The winner …
I managed to pull of a two-song win in my competition with Dayna, correctly predicting 20 of the 33 songs performed. When you take into account all the covers and the performance of “Strangest Tribe”, that’s pretty damn good.
Sunday will mark my 20th Pearl Jam show, a milestone for many PJ fans. It will be Dayna’s fourth!
Predictions: I think “Lightning Bolt” and “Rearview Mirror” are guaranteed on the setlist tonight, and I’d be shocked not to hear “Rockin’ in the Free World”, “Better Man” and “Unthought Known.” Surprises could include “Green Disease”, “Last Exit”, “Crazy Mary”and the rarely played “Dirty Frank.”