Pearl Jam Concert Review: Chicago 8.23.09

Last night Pearl Jam put on one of their best performances since hitting the 21st century. After seeing dozens of shows I have a pretty good ear for these things, and while most of my family would doubt it, I can be objective and rate a poor showing by the band. It was a surreal type of show too.

The morning of the show I learned my grandmother passed away. She was a very unique woman who I spent a lot of time with as a child. Being a Pearl Jam fanatic I thought that there would no better way to get cheered up than seeing the band live so of course I still went to the show. Opening with Long Road, Corduroy, Why Go and God’s Dice I couldn’t help not thinking of her since the songs deal a lot with death.

Eddie Vedder said before the first chord of Long Road was struck that “We’ll be dealing with a lot of emotions tonight.” Only this morning did I learn that a close friend of the band from Chicago had recently passed away and there was no coincidence that I was connecting to the song selection, the band was coming from a similar place.

Perhaps it was this emotional  frame of mind that made the band play at another level. They were tight and crafted a setlist for fans, not the radio listener. No Betterman, no Daughter. Instead treats Man of the Hour – an emotional rollercoaster for fathers and sons – and Insignificance were far superior to any sing-a-long. In fact, Given to Fly got a more intense crowd reaction than Even Flow. This made me happy.

I also enjoyed acting like I did the first time I saw Pearl Jam, an amped up teenager, jumping around shouting the choruses out and even doing the fist pump during Alive. It was pretty cathartic and a lot of fun to get that out of the system. It was sad that Courtney couldn’t make the show. She was suffering from an acute lack of sleep issue with Evie still not on a good schedule, waking her up many times a night for feedings which I can’t really help with. The fact that she had a few too many at her high school reunion didn’t help matters.

Oh yeah, Pearl Jam.

New songs The Fixer and Got Some were phenomenal. They actually sounded better than Save You or Even Flow, yet they still gelled perfectly in the set. During Got Some, Vedder sang the chorus “Got some if you need it” with the glee of a musical drug pusher.

Vedder was extremely animated and chatty throughout the show, talking about his youth growing up in Evanston and how he was exposed to the Jackson 5 before he performed a solo rendition of Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done.

I was sitting 14 rows back on Mike McCready’s side which is always a good place to be, because the lead guitarist is quite the showman, even playing behind his back at times. The sound was also superb, especially for the United Center which can be boomy. Of course, being that close helps.

Tonight is night two and I doubt it will be as good a show, how could it be?

Main Set

Long Road, Corduroy, Why Go, Gods Dice, Dissident, Small Town, Sad, The Fixer, Given To Fly, Come Back (tour debut), Evenflow, Save You, In Hiding, Man of the Hour (tour debut), Insignificance, Got Some, Spin the Black Circle

First Encore

Love Reign O'er Me, Life Wasted, The Real Me, Alive

Second Encore
The Needle and the Damage Done (Ed Solo), Rats (w/ Ben intro), Supersonic, Smile, Rearviewmirror, Yellow Ledbetter (Star Spangled Banner tag)