Cleveland Rocks! So Does Pearl Jam

by Kathy Davis on May 10, 2010

Aaron Mendelsohn of the Cleveland Scene had nice things to say about Pearl Jam’s longevity and skill:

To witness Pearl Jam in concert is truly a testament to the band’s longevity.

The last band standing from the ’90s alternative/grunge era that helped define a generation, Pearl Jam have never taken a break, broken up and gotten back together, or alienated their fans with bad business decisions.

Instead, the band has been the model of consistency, cultivating its own fan club, charging reasonable ticket prices, and playing long concerts night after night.

For those who attended last night’s show at Quicken Loans Arena, they saw a band play until the venue turned on the house lights and forced them offstage.

With blue hues dimly lighting the stage, Eddie Vedder and the band broke into “Wash,” a rarely played fan favorite and Ten B-side, to open the concert. The song choice was indicative of the rest of the set, as Pearl Jam delighted a crowd of 12,000-plus fans, splattering the nearly two-and-a-half-hour concert with rarities and hits that spanned the band’s 20-year catalog.

The show was heavy on familiar songs like “Corduroy,” “Go,” “Even Flow,” and “Daughter,” mixing with tracks from the band’s latest album, last year’s Backspacer.

Songs were stretched and jammed out accordingly, with guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard battling bassist Jeff Ament as the trio raced around the stage. The set came to a climax with “Why Go,” which erupted with Matt Cameron feverishly banging his drums as small, bright LEDs on the tip of his drumsticks traced his every movement.

After a short break, the band returned for the first of two encores by wishing their mothers a happy Mother’s Day. The gesture showed the band’s softer side, but the very next song, “Porch,” hit the opposite side. With McCready toying with his guitar and eliciting demonic tones, and Vedder howling the words with pointed intensity, the song evolved into a mad jam that lasted several minutes, until Vedder ended it by throwing his guitar into his mic stand as the rest of the band walked offstage.

It didn’t take long for the band to return again, as the energy carried over into the second encore, highlighted by favorites “Black” and “Alive” and a cover of the Who’s “Real Me.”

But the real treat was “Smile,” which was requested by a fan holding a sign. Vedder played harmonica, and the rest of the band switched instruments (except Cameron, who stayed put behind his drums).

The night’s final song, “Indifference,” was poetically performed with the house lights on, showing everyone in attendance that, for at least a few hours, we can all still remember the importance of the music that helped shape an era. —Aaron Mendelsohn

Cleveland Plain-Dealer has a long history of great music coverage; here’s their fabulous review of the boys:

Pearl Jam brings its A game in concert Sunday night at The Q

By John Soeder, The Plain Dealer

May 10, 2010, 10:15AM

IMG_5832.JPGJohn Soeder, The Plain Dealer Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder performs Sunday, May 9, 2010, at The Q in Cleveland.Eddie Vedder neglected to call his mom on Mother’s Day, so he did the next best thing.

In the middle of Pearl Jam’s concert Sunday night at The Q, the singer got 10,000 fans to shout in unison: “Happy Mother’s Day, Karen!”

Vedder said he planned to send a recording of the greeting to his mom the next day.

Guitarist Stone Gossard apparently dropped the ball, too, so the audience also gave a shout-out to his mom.

OK, so these guys might not be the most thoughtful sons in the world. As far as rock bands go, though, Pearl Jam would make any mama proud.

A slow-burning “Wash” (a B-side from 1991, the year the group made its debut with “Ten”) opened the marathon show here.

Alongside crowd-pleasing hits and diehard-stoking rarities, selections from Pearl Jam’s latest album, “Backspacer,” came off especially well, particularly “Just Breathe.” The sing-along ballad found Vedder sitting on a stool and strumming an acoustic guitar as he sang of love and loss.

Other new tunes rocked hard. “Got Some” and “The Fixer” were almost punk in their economy and energetic focus, a welcome contrast to the epic sprawl of some of the band’s grunge-era oldies.

Besides Vedder and Gossard, the core lineup featured Mike McCready on guitar, Jeff Ament on bass and Matt Cameron on drums. The highly combustible chemistry among them was second nature, with additional sparks provided by longtime sideman Boom Gaspar on keyboards.

Vedder, 45, remains one of the most galvanizing frontmen in the business. He fortified his powerful baritone with swigs of red wine, danced precariously on speaker cabinets and punctuated the music with flying leaps.

You never got the impression that he and his bandmates were merely going through the motions, not even when they revisited “Corduroy,” “Even Flow,” “Daughter” and other calling-card numbers for the umpteenth time. The proceedings could have turned into a flannel-flying nostalgia trip, but Pearl Jam’s vigor kept the songs firmly in the moment.

The group also took pride in some of its lesser-known tunes. “Leash,” “Immortality” (sealed with an anguished solo by McCready), “In Hiding” and other lost gems sparkled amid a generous set list with something for everyone.

Pearl Jam played nearly 2 ½ hours, capping the night with two encore sets that included “Black” and “Alive,” as well as a surging cover of the Who’s “The Real Me.”

Vedder even worked in a plug for the Cavs.

“Seems like good energy in the building,” he said. “I hope you do well on Tuesday night.”

If LeBron James and friends perform with half as much intensity as Pearl Jam did, victory is certain.


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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