Eddie Vedder‘s nine-date run of shows began with a solid two-hour engagement at the Beacon Theater in New York on 3 February. Unlike previous tours, Vedder’s current outing sees him with a solid band behind him instead of his typical Seattle-cadre. Dubbed the Earthlings, the group includes Vedder’s musician-friends: Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, keyboardist/guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (formerly in RHCP), Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, guitarist Andrew Watt and his frequent collaborator Glen Hansard. And this night marked the East Coast debut of songs from Vedder’s upcoming solo record Earthling and last summer’s Flag Day soundtrack.
But when the Earthlings opened with three covers, including R.E.M.’s classic “Drive” and the Beatles’ idyllic “Here Comes the Sun”, it demonstrated the group were free to play whatever they liked.
The audience lacked familiarity with the new material, as none had been publicly performed yet. The evening was distinct from a Pearl Jam show in one notable way — there were far fewer sing-alongs. When the band played the downtempo “The Haves”, one of three singles from the record, marking a stretch of eight new songs, the Beacon audience watched keenly, absorbing the new music.
Vedder briefly paused to note that the group intended to put on a good show despite COVID causing them to reduce their total number of practice sessions. Then he praised their good fortune and played the album’s uplifting opener, “Invincible”. Vedder cheekily refers to himself in the song, asking, “are you ready for a bit of Echo Victor?”, as the guitars swell. The reader should imagine audiences cheering as this will surely be a future crowd favorite. The Tom Petty-esque “Long Way” evoked a sing-along, though, as it was a single.
Vedder also noted that Watt reminded him that Pearl Jam’s Yield had been released 25 years to the day. So the Earthlings rewarded an audience waiting for Pearl Jam songs with “Wishlist”, one of three Pearl Jam songs for the night, letting the faithful soar and roar.
Afterward came the third single, a track I wouldn’t have been surprised if the band didn’t play, given its subject. In “Brother the Cloud”, Vedder addresses the loss of someone, perhaps Chris Cornell or other people he’s lost, to suicide. But, as Vedder told the New York Times, he was working to understand what leads one to take his own life. (A few nights later, during the New Jersey show, Vedder remarked that a friend of his, a father of a child lost at Sandy Hook Elementary, took his life recently. But in this instance, he wasn’t one to judge that person given his horrific experience.)
The reflective song gave way to more new material, including the English countryside vibe of “Mrs. Mills” and “Try”, where photographer Danny Clinch joined them to play harmonica.
But the Earthlings closed out the night how they began, with a few covers including a bit of Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and an epic finale of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. With the various members returning to their respective bands soon, this short tour may, unfortunately, be all we see of the Earthlings for the foreseeable future. Pearl Jam has Europe dates, and the Chili Peppers have new material this year. Hansard will be doing some dates, including a visit to the Beacon, with the Swell Season in March.
Drive (R.E.M. cover)
Room at the Top (Tom Petty cover)
Here Comes the Sun (Beatles cover)
I’ll Be Waiting
Power of Right
Wishlist (Pearl Jam)
Brother the Cloud
Rose of Jericho
Porch (Pearl Jam)
Better Man (Pearl Jam) -> People Have the Power (Patti Smith)
Isn’t It a Pity (George Harrison)
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
February 9 Chicago, IL Auditorium Theatre
February 10 Chicago, IL Auditorium Theatre
February 15 San Diego, CA The Magnolia
February 17 Los Angeles, CA YouTube Theatre
February 21 Seattle, WA Benaroya Hall
February 22 Seattle, WA Benaroya Hall