After thinking about it overnight, last night’s Pearl Jam show at Fenway Park was the best of the 20 times I have seen the band perform, surpassing the legendary July 11, 2003 show at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, during which the band played an acoustic set before the opening act and then played a full set after for a total of 47 songs, and the first show I saw with Dayna on October 16, 2013 at DCU Center in Worcester.
Sunday was even more epic, mainly because of the emotion of the crowd, which was as energetic as any crowd I have seen. The band ripped through 34 songs over 3-plus hours to the delight of everyone in attendance. Eddie Vedder was on point all night and despite a few rants about baseball and a recent LGBTQ law signed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, he didn’t veer too far from the setlist (although Red Mosquito got scratched again).
The rest of the band sounded dynamic, as the Stone Gossard/Mike McCready guitar duo is better than ever, while drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Jeff Ament provide the backbone of the band. Of course, Boom Gaspar plays an often unappreciated role with the band on organ, piano, and keyboards, but his contribution was also vital to the success of Fenway 2.
The setlist was incredible. Having gone both nights, we got to hear just about any of the classic PJ we could have wanted to hear, but Sunday’s setlist deserves an A+. Amazingly, only 6 songs from Friday were repeated Sunday (“Alive”, “Corduroy”, “Even Flow”, “Do the Evolution”, “Mind Your Manners” and “Draw the Line”). and The crowd was as into “Nothing as it Seems” and “Nothingman” as any crowd I’ve been a part of, and “Wishlist” then kicked things into high gear. Sunday’s “Corduroy” was even better than Friday’s and “Animal” and “Hail Hail” keep the hard-rocking vibe going into “Lightning Bolt”, “In Hiding” and “Even Flow”. I even enjoyed the “Draw the Line” cover on Sunday, mainly because it made more sense with Tom Hamilton joining the band.
From there it got even better. The main set ended with “Deep”, “Jeremy”, the amazing”Unthought Known” and Rearviewmirrior” — none of which had been played on Friday.
“Yellow Moon” opened encore one, with Vedder sharing the story of recording the song the day of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. It was followed by a rarity, “Angel” (written by former drummer Dave Abruzzesse), and a superb version of “Footsteps.” The acoustics were done at this point, as a rat about the Red Sox miracle win in 2013 over Detroit led into The Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles” before “Mind Your Manners” and an extended “Better Man” closed things out.
Both Dayna and I were thrilled to hear “Smile” start the second encore, as it may be the most quoted song between us. A rocking version of “Go”led into an emotional “Love, Reign over Me” before strong performances of “Evolution: and “Breath”. The show ended with a bang as well, as “Alive” led into a traditional cover of “Rockin’ in the Freee World”, but it was anything but traditional. Vedder welcomed indie rock legend J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. to the stage to play lead guitar on the track, and the band was also joined by Hamilton and Matt Cameron’s son, Ray, on guitars. “Yellow Ledbetter” ended the night after the band thanked local music people, including bringing one longtime worker on stage.
25 Years of awesome
I saw my first Pearl Jam show in July 1991 at the Citi Club (might be Axis or Avalon — name change was about that time) –when they opened for two of my other favorites: The Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom. I had forgotten they opened for those two bands until I found the post of the show online today.
I did not go to see Pearl Jam that night, even though I had been playing some of their music on my Fitchburg State College radio show, but they are the only band I remember from that night. Twenty-five years and twenty live shows later, they are still one of the greatest bands I have ever seen, and have played a huge role in the soundtrack of my life.
Thank you to Eddie, Stone, Mike, Jeff, Matt, Boom, Dave Abruzzesse, Jack Irons, and Matt Chamberlain for the music, the activism, standing up for your fans, and the memories.