Pearl Jam‘s 2022 New York City shows were three years in the making. Alongside the release of their 11th studio album Gigaton in March 2020, the band planned for an extensive arena tour in Canada and the US that included a more intimate show at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater. Listeners of Pearl Jam’s SiriusXM radio channel were able to enter for the chance to attend the Small Stage Series show, while tickets for the exponentially larger Madison Square Garden show were equally hard to come by.
A timeline of Pearl Jam’s album history, covering release dates with factoids about singles and credits, ran along one side of Apollo’s lobby. At the end of the line, waitstaff offered attendees a free beverage, and event-exclusive t-shirts were available.
Pearl Jam has begun each show on the recent leg of their tour seated, allowing the energy to build slowly. The Apollo show began with “Footsteps”, while their Madison Square Garden set started with “Release”, the former an outtake from their debut album, 1991’s Ten, and the latter the final track from that record.
A technical snafu at the Apollo resulted in the room losing audio for at least 20 minutes. As the computers were being rebooted, lead singer Eddie Vedder quipped that John Coltrane never had to deal with that when he played here. To fill some time, he took a stool to the front of the stage and performed an acoustic take of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart” while the rest of the band hung out backstage.
When audio was restored, Pearl Jam roared right into the music with “Who Ever Said” from Gigaton, followed by “Even Flow” and then another couple of Gigaton tracks, including the groovy “Dance of the Clairvoyants”.
That the band had to perform a huge sold-out show less than 24 hours later didn’t stop Pearl Jam from stepping on the gas for their encore. The SiriusXM Small Stage Series show ended with the audience screaming along to favorites like “Better Man”, “Do the Evolution”, and a cover of the Who’s “Baby O’Riley”. Vedder let the audience breathe a little bit on the final song, “Indifference”, which in part helped the heat inside the venue dissipate.
With the Madison Square Garden show occurring on September 11th, many first responders were in attendance. During the show, Vedder noted that he spoke with some before they performed and asked the audience to continue to support healthcare for the heroes. He also recognized that 9/11 is a day people all around the world stand in solidarity with America, and the arena roared with approval and an American flag appeared on the monitors. This show ended with all the lights on as Mike McCready blazed through “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Usually, when Pearl Jam plays two nights at Madison Square Garden, the second night feels a lot stronger. But this one-night-only show was incredibly powerful in its own right. Vedder proclaimed, “This is the 37th time this band has played in New York City. I think we’ve only played Seattle 50. Here’s the thing — I don’t remember half of those fuckin’ Seattle shows. I just don’t. But I feel like we remember every Manhattan show. This potentially has the chance to be the most memorable of them all. We are quite honored to be spending this important date with you.”