Pearl Jam Open for Themselves in Toronto

by Kathy Davis on August 22, 2009

In addition to the regular set, reports are coming  in of a very unique pre-set Friday night, August 21st as Pearl Jam rock Toronto and then some! 

 Ted Leo and The Pharmacists were scheduled to open the show at the Molson Amphitheatre, however Ed stated in a pre-show interview that Ted ”didn’t show up”…he had some passport issues, meaning  “as in that he forgot it…  so we have to put together a little acoustic set…” And indeed our boys did!

Ed’s Preset: Neil Young covers -Needle & The Damage Done, Sugar Mountain. Video of Sugar Mountain courtesy incredible PJ Official Message Board member Torontonian 

Mike’s Preset: Unknown song about his daughter, Greatest Waterfall

Stone’s Preset: Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory (cover of a Johnny Thunders song, also covered by Duff McKagan on the GNR Spaghetti Incident album thanks Dennis/Bugs).

Ed and Jeff preset:  Bee Girl

The Pharmacists, without Ted Leo:  Hybrid Moments, Lions Den (French Toast),  Treble In Trouble,  Blitzkrieg Bop,  Search And Destroy (Iggy Pop) (w/Ed Ved and Mike McCready)

Set List: Of The Girl, Corduroy, Severed Hand, Why Go, Brain Of J, I Am Mine, The Fixer, Given To Fly, Off He Goes, Even Flow, Unemployable, Faithful, Down, Got Some, 1/2 Full, Lukin, Not For You/(Modern Girl – Sleater Kinney), Do The Evolution

1st encore: Inside Job, Wishlist, Black, Alive

2nd encore: Small Town, Wasted Reprise, Better Man/(Save It For Later), Porch (during which Ed goes into the crowd!), Rockin’ In The Free World

Gallery of Preset performances and main setlist, with photos courtesy PJ Message Board members Torontonian (preset)  and GuitarHero27 (setlist):

There were two unique show shirts available, one with a Toronto Maple Leafs-themed design with “Pearl Jam” in the crest and and “Toronto 21″ on the back, and another with a stickman design. What a night!

Here’s an early review from the Toronto SunWritten by Jason Macneil

Pearl Jam’s admiration for Neil Young is well-known and documented, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their show at Toronto’s sold-out Molson Amphitheatre started and ended with covers of Young’s hits.

However, basically being your own support act is a tad out of the ordinary.

Openers Ted Leo & The Pharmacists were slated to open the show but Leo ended up stuck at the border, resulting in just The Pharmacists.

Hence, Pearl Jam helped the band out, with lead singer Eddie Vedder coming out to play Sugar Mountain and The Needle And The Damage Done alone acoustically to a loud ovation. From there Vedder introduced Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready who performed a pair. He then made way for guitarist Stone Gossard who covered Johnny Thunders’ You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory before The Pharmacists did some songs.

It seemed to be the softer, melodic yin to what would be a roughly 140-minute headlining (and curfew-breaking) set of guitar-driving rock yang Pearl Jam thrived upon. From the big and beefy Severed Hand which McCready went to town on to Corduroy to the frantic Lukin that had Vedder sounding like a man possessed, the group sounded crisp, loud and at times beautifully brash.

One thing they weren’t too keen on was performing much from their upcoming album Backspacer. The two numbers they tested – the catchy, summery lead single The Fixer and the high-paced Got Some – are more concentrated bursts of rock compared to earlier, looser material. But a slower, deliberate but extremely effective track like Amongst The Waves will have to wait.

As polished as Pearl Jam is, the group is steered by the enigmatic Vedder, who occasionally took swigs from a wine bottle when not belting out foot-stomping nuggets like the powerful Not For You which shined thanks to the rhythm section of bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Matt Cameron. He also tossed in some Pete Townshend-esque jumps and windmills during Betterman.

Vedder also took some time during the show to mention how he played Massey Hall last year, how Toronto Island seemed like a “mirage” to him and how Canadians must be viewing the current hot topic of health care in the “country that is below you….geographically.”

Other highlights included the almost obligatory Even Flow from the band’s debut (and recently reissued) Ten. Alive and a searing rendition of Porch that McCready steamrolled through were also tracks off the same album the band delivered in the encore, one that primarily acts as a half-show of sometimes 8, sometimes 10 additional songs.

With no gimmicks other than a simple backdrop of waves, Pearl Jam thanked the fans for sticking with the band through some rough patches. And while Yellow Ledbetter, the mellow show closer which sees them leave one by one, was on the setlist, Pearl Jam opted to leave in fine rock style with the joyous Rockin’ In The Free World.

Neil would be proud.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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