by Brenda Hillegas
Right about now, Pearl Jam is getting ready to go on stage for their second night in Philadelphia. I can’t remember the last time I caught an act two days in a row on tour. Big bands come through Philly a lot, stopping for more than one night. For me, on most occasions, one night is enough. As I type this, my back is sore, my ear drums are shot and I’m falling asleep. But, give me a Red Bull and some money for parking at the Wells Fargo Center, and I’d go back. I see a lot of bands- small venues, big venues, venues where my friends and I are the only ones in the crowd. The majority of my disposable income is spent on seeing bands and spending way too much money on a single beer. But, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that of every musician I have seen recently, Pearl Jam is the only band who puts on a show worth ever single penny spent on a concert ticket. I really do wish I could see them again tonight.
Last night, Eddie Vedder pointed to the crowd behind him and told the audience there were 20-30 times more people in just that section than there were when Pearl Jam played The Legendary Dobbs in 1991. I was seven that year and didn’t know a thing about Pearl Jam. It wasn’t until a few years later when I had to have my hands on anything related to Beverly Hills, 90210 (don’t judge me) that I stumbled upon an article where Shannen Doherty mentioned Eddie Vedder and I started to pay attention to him and Pearl Jam. I’ll be honest- I have never been the biggest Pearl Jam fan (and it’s times like this I’m glad I have the ability to approve all comments before they get posted here). I have nothing bad to say about the guys and they were on every mixed tape and burnt CD I made circa 1993-1998, but, I never jumped at the opportunity to see them live. After seeing them last night in front of 20,000, performing almost non-stop for three hours, I regret not paying much attention to the band sooner. Please, forgive me.
Pearl Jam didn’t need to end their show Monday- I didn’t care what they played next and I could have watched them all night. These guys were created to perform live and it doesn’t matter what the hell they sing. Vedder has the perfect voice for rock and roll. He knows how to play the crowd. A no-frills stage, some stripped down songs and two enormous encores make Pearl Jam a band every other band should measure themselves against.
They started with “Pendulum” off their newest release, Lightning Bolt. A few songs in, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small” town from 1993’s Vs. About twenty songs later, Pearl Jam left the stage. But the crowd knew it wasn’t the end. They came back for plenty more, throwing in The Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles” and pulling some fans down who were sitting behind the stage at the very top of the venue. Their “Gabba Gabba Hey” sign caught Vedder’s eye and he made sure they were sitting right on the stage as he sang this song. Then the band left again, coming back a couple minutes later for a few more which included “Alive” and a cover of Victoria Williams’ “Crazy Mary”.
From sharing his wine with the audience to acknowledging every single section in the venue, Vedder and the band truly made this concert about the fans. They played for us. “If you’re not leaving, we’re not leaving,” Vedder said when the band returned for their second encore last night. Tonight, Pearl Jam is celebrating. Twenty three years ago, on this date, they played their very first show. It was at the Off Ramp Cafe, which held about 200 people. Obviously, their fans never left.