Newark Review, Ousted Idol Digs “Ten”

by Kathy Davis on May 20, 2010

While it’s hard to top Jess’s ebullient words regarding Pearl Jam’s appearance at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, here is a really great review of the boys rocking out on Tuesday night May 19, 2010 from the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

Pearl Jam, still vibrant after decades, rocks Newark

By Tris McCall/The Star-Ledger

May 19, 2010, 8:16PM

The singer clasped both hands over the microphone, fingers laced, leaning back, quivering with emotion. Eyes shut, he squeezed out his words, drawing the stand toward him at a sharp angle. Periodically, one arm would break free, punching at the air to emphasize a line, or a phrase, or an oaken shout.

The posture is every bit as famous as the voice.

Well, almost as famous.

Eddie Vedder, the most enduring rock star produced by the alternative-rock movement of the early ’90s, remains a polarizing figure. His stage presence and command have never been in question — but neither has his proclivity to preach. In the grunge era, when the lives of popular musicians were expected to be brief and brutal and end in drug-addled tragedy, his peers accused his band, Pearl Jam, of careerism. Punks have looked askance at Vedder’s lasting love for classic-rock.

But at the Prudential Center in Newark on May 18, he was surrounded by friends. And he treated the near-capacity crowd with the generosity and gratitude that have, over the years, become hallmarks.

“You’re a little quiet, but that’s all right,” he told the audience just before the beginning of Pearl Jam’s encore set. “I’m guessing you’re going to want to stick around and hear a few more.”

He guessed correctly.

During the tight, largely uptempo show, Pearl Jam refused to lean on crowd-pleasers, instead drawing from their deep catalog of album cuts. (The band played three songs and a B-side from 1998’s frequently overlooked “Yield” LP.) Such a set might not have reached the uncommitted, but the partisan crowd was delighted by each selection. Three hours is a long time to keep a fist in the air, but many concertgoers managed just that.

The stage set, too, was straightforward. No gimmicks here; instead, Vedder and the group supplied the fireworks. Years of concerts have sharpened Pearl Jam’s attack. Older songs like “Even Flow” and “Daughter” were particularly focused. “Do The Evolution,” a stormy riff-rocker, advertised the band’s tightness; “Amongst The Waves,” an ambitious new song, demonstrated their flexibility.

Should they play a completely different set at Madison Square Garden May 20 or 21 — one that highlights other qualities — none of their fans will be surprised.

Eddie Vedder possesses a voice that seems to be conjured up from the earth beneath him, and pushed up through the soles of his feet to his lungs by a supreme force of will. In the ‘90s, it was a much-copied voice, but none of Vedder’s imitators came close to matching its power. Vedder’s voice compels crowds to sing along — no matter what he’s shouting about.

Pearl Jam
Where and when: Madison Square Garden, Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street, New York, May 20 with Band of Horses and May 21 with the Black Keys


How much: $79; call (212) 465-6073 or visit thegarden.com
.

“You’re a little quiet, but that’s all right,” he told the audience just before the beginning of Pearl Jam’s encore set. “I’m guessing you’re going to want to stick around and hear a few more.”

He guessed correctly.

During the tight, largely uptempo show, Pearl Jam refused to lean on crowd-pleasers, instead drawing from their deep catalog of album cuts. (The band played three songs and a B-side from 1998’s frequently overlooked “Yield” LP.) Such a set might not have reached the uncommitted, but the partisan crowd was delighted by each selection. Three hours is a long time to keep a fist in the air, but many concertgoers managed just that.

The stage set, too, was straightforward. No gimmicks here; instead, Vedder and the group supplied the fireworks. Years of concerts have sharpened Pearl Jam’s attack. Older songs like “Even Flow” and “Daughter” were particularly focused. “Do The Evolution,” a stormy riff-rocker, advertised the band’s tightness; “Amongst The Waves,” an ambitious new song, demonstrated their flexibility.

Should they play a completely different set at Madison Square Garden May 20 or 21 — one that highlights other qualities — none of their fans will be surprised.

Eddie Vedder possesses a voice that seems to be conjured up from the earth beneath him, and pushed up through the soles of his feet to his lungs by a supreme force of will. In the ‘90s, it was a much-copied voice, but none of Vedder’s imitators came close to matching its power. Vedder’s voice compels crowds to sing along — no matter what he’s shouting about.

At the Prudential Center, a hip-shaking rendition of anti-violence anthem “Glorified G” turned the house into tacit gun-control advocates. Did Vedder’s polemic win any converts? The force of his argument may have worn off once the song stopped, but for three minutes, he had a working majority.

Later, during a second encore set that began with a dutiful (and somewhat predictable) cover of “Jersey Girl,” the house would enthusiastically serenade Vedder with a chorus he’d written many years ago: “Hey, I’m still alive.”

In 1992, “Alive” was anthemic, ironic, defiant; in 2010, it simply felt appropriate. Pearl Jam are survivors. Most of their alternative-rocking peers have long since vanished, torpedoed by audience indifference, creative lethargy, or worse.

Vedder didn’t stage-dive at the Prudential Center, but that was just about the only concession Pearl Jam made to age. Rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament still lock together like jigsaw pieces; Mike McCready still takes the spotlight for his enthusiastic, if occasionally meandering, six-string solos.

It was those guitar solos — unusual in the self-effacing grunge scene — that initially marked Pearl Jam as a band apart. “Ten,” the debut album, wedded the wattage of Led Zeppelin to the woodsy folk-rock murk of early R.E.M., and connected with a mainstream audience. Like Jim Morrison — a singer to whom the Pearl Jam frontman was often compared at the time — Vedder was fascinated by psychological horror and the Oedipus myth. Unlike Morrison, who seemed to revel in psychic deterioration, Vedder radiated compassion for his characters. In “Jeremy,” the band’s best-known song beyond the Pearl Jam cult, the singer expresses sympathy for a school shooter — and admits complicity in the casual playground abuse that led to his suicide. Heady sentiments, but audiences were ready for them: “Ten” did more to establish grunge as a musical phenomenon than any other album besides Nirvana‘s “Nevermind.” Its singles became modern rock radio standards, and Vedder was dubbed a spokesman for his generation.

It is hard enough for statesmen to live up to a Time magazine cover; a twentysomething singer armed with a clutch of minor-key melodies never stood much of a chance. Vedder and Pearl Jam have often expressed deep misgivings about their popularity, and at times, they’ve seemed willing to chuck it altogether. (Few pop stars ever attempt to make their music less catchy; in the mid-Nineties, this was, allegedly, one of Vedder’s objectives.) But they’ve stuck it out, and fans have been rewarded for their perseverance. “Backspacer,” the latest Pearl Jam set, contains some of the band’s loosest, brightest, most compelling writing. It would be misleading to call “Backspacer” fun; these guys are from Seattle, after all. Gloom is in their bloodstream. But it is optimistic and occasionally even exuberant, and for Pearl Jam, that’s a coup.

The selections from “Backspacer” were among the concert’s finest moments. The garage-pop of “Supersonic” was a near-playful highlight, as was the ruminative “Unthought Known.” “The Fixer,” a single and statement of purpose, finds Vedder once again attempting to set the world right; on Tuesday night, his determination to better himself and the world around him felt infectious and, as the band hit the chorus, maybe even achievable.

“Backspacer” is the sound of a band reinvigorated. Those in the early ‘90s who derided Pearl Jam for their careerism and classic-rock ambitions were prescient: this is the sort of band that continues to play even when the house lights are up. They’d keep right on making music, even if nobody listened.

Pearl Jam emerged from a coterie of interrelated Seattle bands. Opening act Band Of Horses did, too, a little more than a decade later — in the same city, and via Sub Pop Records, the same label that gave the world Nirvana and Soundgarden.

The group, which plays majestic, soaring, occasionally sleepy country-rock, seemed slightly misplaced in an arena. But they were up to the challenge, performing songs from the newly released “Infinite Arms,” and hooky, enjoyable soft-rock from their back catalog.

The contrast between the headliners and their support was striking: Pearl Jam is all kinetic energy, bold statements, and rough edges, and Band of Horses is as smooth as soapstone. Both bands were products of their times — grunge demanded aggressive outward engagement, while alt-rock of the ‘00s was introverted and elliptical. Funny, then, that Band Of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell wore a flannel shirt, jeans and a scruffy beard. From the cheap seats, he looked like a young Eddie Vedder.

Tris McCall may be reached at tmccall@starledger.com.

Photos by Saed Hindash – New Jersey Star-Ledger from a gallery found here:

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I’m not an an American Idol watcher, never have been, but news of the the show as the competition winds down to the final two contestants seems somewhat inescapable.  As the third-to-last contestant Casey James was ousted, a nice article about the singers’ influences called “Casey James: The Soundtrack to My Life” appeared in the Los Angeles Times “Idol Tracker” blog. One of his big three? Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, of course. Here’s what the nice young man had to say:

American Idol Contestant and PJ fan Casey James

Pearl Jam: “Ten” (1991)

“Ten” opened me up to mainstream music, but when my brother first started listening to it, Pearl Jam was still kind of underground and we made fun of him for it. Then it went huge and everybody was listening to it. From that, I got into Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots — everything that popped up in that genre after, which was a huge influence on me as well. But that album is one of my favorites because it’s one of about 20 where every single song is amazingly crazy good all the way from top to bottom. It’s perfect. You can listen to any song on that and it could’ve been a single. And I think they had a bunch.

He shoulda won just for having good taste!

Rock.

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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