Pearl Jam Anchor Place in Fenway History and Storm Wrigley This Weekend

Eddie Vedder and Co. were in fine form as they played two landmark sold-out shows in Boston's Fenway Park.
Pearl Jam

I had never seen a show at Fenway Park until Pearl Jam’s two recent sold out nights there. I can only believe that few, if any, bands break the curfew at Boston’s historic ballpark and get away with it. But that’s what the Seattle rock group did on Sunday August 7th. They exceeded the 10:30 pm curfew with not just one but two lengthy cuts, a cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin in the Free World” and “Yellow Ledbetter” with the “Star-Spangled Banner” tagged on at the end. They didn’t leave the stage until just after 10:45. Okay sure, the curfew may have been negotiated ahead of time. Vedder and Co. want to be invited back I’m sure. But it was still significant.

The two shows marked my 3rd and 4th time seeing Pearl Jam this year and my 27th and 28th experience overall. Compared to the two shows at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, the Fenway “pahk” gigs felt more powerful and alive. Usually, I have felt that the band’s second show in a city (on the same tour) is superior to the first night and indeed this proved to be the case at Fenway. I’ll highlight four favorite moments, beyond breaking the curfew, from both nights.

1) During the first night, Eddie Vedder waxed nostalgic about Boston, more than once to be fair. But he had me laughing along as he related a story from the band’s early touring days when he took Polaroids from the stage. He showed off images from several cities in reverse order before explaining why he didn’t have any from the Boston show. Apparently he grabbed shots of a security guard trouncing a dude and that guard’s colleague wasn’t too pleased. So he demanded the Polaroids… with the intent to destroy them. Vedder said, “Here’s this massive guy and he grabbed the pictures. Then he went to tear ’em up in my face. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried tearing up a Polaroid… it was awesome. This big giant guy emasculated by a little postage stamp of a Polaroid he couldn’t tear.” (His keepsake photos from Boston ended up being two from inside Fenway when he snuck in the the next day.)

2) Pearl Jam fans feel a special connection with the band. Somehow the band got wind that a fan (Matthew) request a song in honor of his recently departed father (on the first night). Vedder tried to overcome his tears as he noted the audience might help Matthew heal by giving their energy to him. The audience cheered for him and the band unleashed their cover of The Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling”, a song they hadn’t played since 2004. That the band would honor a grieving fan’s request in such a fashion was such a tremendous gesture. Plus the song is so great Paul McCartney includes it on his current tour.

3) On the second night, Vedder recognized guitar tech Simon Good’s birthday with a cake held by a man in a Donald Trump mask and led the Park in a “Happy Birthday” sing-along for the man. Vedder has recognized Good before, including at a show in 2012 where he had Good renew his marriage vows. In this instance though, my thoughts turned back a couple of weeks to the Newport Folk Festival where Good had been Glen Hansard’s guitar tech. At Newport, Good’s role included a verse or two on “The Auld Triangle” during the Hansard’s set. It was great to witness the closeness Pearl Jam and their crew and have that moment connect to a highlight at Newport too.

4) The second night’s set included two of my favorites “Off He Goes” and “Nothingman” within the first four (of a total thirty-four) songs. But for some reason the classic “Rearviewmirror” was one of the biggest stand outs. The band knows how to lay out a set, with the classic rocker “Jeremy” leading into the calmer “Unthought Known” and then looked back again with the devastating “Rearviewmirror”. The infectious guitars super-charged the already primed crowd and Fenway seemed to explode with their energy.

The weekend was made a complete Pearl Jam affair with the band offering screening of the first night’s live feed with a Q&A segment from director Blue Leach after. This night was exclusively for PJ fan club members lucky enough to be selected, since a smaller number could get in as it was at the respectively smaller House of Blues across from Fenway. This was the first time the band offered anyone a chance to (re-)watch the live projection from a gig in a non-polished final product. Some fans either deceived themselves or let themselves be deceived into thinking the band would play and lined up hours before the doors opened for a front row spot. Sadly all the ended up with was a crook in their neck from looking up at the movie for three hours. The Q&A itself was only somewhat informative (like the band wants the video to start in black and white before moving to color later in the show) but the blame resides on poor questions from the audience I suppose. Leach and his crew were more than happy to speak about their Pearl Jam experiences.

So went Boston’s hold on Pearl Jam and so went my last chance to see them perform this year. Now Wrigley Field will embrace the band twice this weekend. Chicago should expect some local charities to benefit from the band’s arrival. A portion of each ticket sold is given to local charities specifically, in Boston, “SongbirdSing’s ‘Veterans Voices’ program, Zumix, Roxbury Youthworks’s ‘GIFT’ program and ArtsBridge Institute’s ‘Music in Common’ Summer scholarships.”



Pearl Jam Fenway 8/5/16 Setlist


Long Road

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

Low Light

All Those Yesterdays

Given to Fly

Mind Your Manners

Why Go


Even Flow



I Am Mine



Do the Evolution

Masters of War

I Am a Patriot


[encore break]

Strangest Tribe


Just Breathe

Sleeping by Myself

Wasted Reprise

Life Wasted

State of Love and Trust

Comfortably Numb


[second encore break]

Draw the Line


I’ve Got a Feeling

Baba O’Riley

Pearl Jam Fenway 8/716 Setlist


Off He Goes

Nothing as It Seems



Interstellar Overdrive



Hail Hail

Lightning Bolt

In Hiding

Even Flow


Draw the Line


Not for You




Unthought Known


[encore break]

Yellow Moon



I Believe in Miracles

Mind Your Manners

Better Man

[second encore break]



Love, Reign O’er Me

Do the Evolution



Rockin’ in the Free World

Yellow Ledbetter / Star-Spangled Banner

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