Pearl Jam's shows are more and more memorable for hardcore fans but they still remain approachable for everyone as they pulled from their earliest releases in St. Louis.
The well of energy Pearl Jam taps during a performance is almost unparalleled -- few rock artists manage to sustain the crowd for well over two hours in one sitting. (One that comes to mind is Bruce Springsteen.) Like Springsteen, the band has been finding a way to connect with their hardcore fans through direct audience interaction. But Pearl Jam might have one-upped the Boss on their Fall Tour. It seems the band has taken to directly pulling from comments made on their forum from the fans about personal moments and developments in their lives. In St. Louis, during the band's extensive set, lead-singer Eddie Vedder took a breather to address several individuals, including one gentleman who recently was gifted with a new baby (babies?) and a woman who had left a medical facility after several weeks and was able to attend the show with her family. On top of that, Vedder commended a fan for making the show her 100th Pearl Jam show and sent her a bottle of his wine, that she must be treasuring.
Even if the band has been becoming more intimate with their fans, in St. Louis in particular, Pearl Jam have balanced that by drawing on material from all their albums, including the biggest radio smashes from the '90s. They are a rock band whose show is accessible for every level of fan, novice to dedicated, provided you can get a ticket. Many of the dates on their 12-date Midwest fall tour have been sold out for a while -- a dedicated fanbase means heavy demand for shows. The crowd was so dense that the band had to push back their 8pm start time to allow time for people to enter the venue. As a line of people snaking around the block awaited entry, those indoors had the opportunity to watch the home team, the Cardinals, play the Dodgers on the big screens.
Pearl Jam's current tour feels similar to their 2013 Fall tour. The night, like many before it, kicked off with the moody "Pendulum" from the band's most recent album Lightning Bolt and the stage set-up includes the bare-looking lights hanging from overhead, the zig-zagging bulbs behind the band and the metallic-looking bird soaring above them. That isn't a concern though since the band doesn't stick to the same patterns on any given night, offering up a different selection of favorites and deep-cuts each time and, more importantly, are powerful musicians with a strong stage presence that doesn't require further attractions.
And their power surged through heavier tracks like "Alive", "Rearviewmirror", "Even Flow" and "Jeremy", songs most people growing up in the '90s would be familiar with. The band dipped into the well for at least two rarities, the one Vedder introduced specifically for the hardcore fans "Thin Air" from Binaural, "Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns" that was originally done by Mother Love Bone, the precursor to Pearl Jam, and Vedder's solo cover of John Lennon's "Imagine". The band viciously tore into one of my favorites "Do the Evolution" and later played another Yield favorite, "Given to Fly". But like most of the times I see the band, it's hard to come away with a specific favorite from the evening. There is so much care put into the performance that every Pearl Jam show is high caliber. Those are just a few of the over 30 tunes Pearl Jam performed in St. Louis.
During their finale, Pearl Jam seemed ready to end on "Alive" but with the lights up, they decided to take another swing and belted the Who's "Baba O'Riley" out of the park. Pearl Jam prove night after night they are approachable for new listeners and thrilling for older fans. Even if you don't make an instant connection, you'll still feel the bonds the band shares with their fans. Though the current tour will be over at the end of the month, It isn't too late to get in on the Pearl Jam action... but good luck getting a ticket.
Afterthought: With Ferguson, Missouri within the St. Louis metropolitan area, I would have guessed Vedder might have commented on the situation there (relating to the shooting of Michael Brown) given the attention to politics and society but I don't believe I heard any. As an out of towner, it would have been interesting to know his perspective.
SET LIST (via PJ.com):
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Do the Evolution
Mind Your Manners
My Father's Son
Not For You
-- break --
Crown of Thorns
-- break --
Given yo Fly