I never had a chance to catch a live show from Pearl Jam in the 90’s when they were one of the biggest bands on the planet, so I was excited to finally see them Tuesday night in Phoenix and cross another band off my list of “why the hell has it taken me so long to see their show” list. With as many concerts as I have been to in my life around the world, I was actually happy to see that there was no opening band. It was going to be one long night of Pearl Jam indulgence. As usual, we showed up right when they were taking the stage and my wife and I made our way to our seats. The expansive stage was littered with amps, instruments and lights while the lighting rig hanging above them had multiple lights randomly, or maybe strategically, hanging from above. They resembled bug zappers encased in spheres which gave off different colored lights and a calming vibe to help set the atmosphere of the show. There was also a structure hanging above them that looked like a massive pile of driftwood with lights attached. It folded in half mimicking a wooden hut when it was lowered down over the stage.
The band started in with some slower songs to kind of set the mood and everyone in the audience was moving to the sound and singing along to their favorite ones. The concert was like an extended version of a “Storytellers” episode with Eddie talking occasionally between songs with his musings, song dedications, acknowledging parents of band members in the crowd and even a very cool story about his father. Eddie had never known his father and he said on stage that he found some old recordings of him singing. After a few beers, he finally pressed play. Eddie was happy to hear that his father was a good singer, “Actually a really good singer,” to which the crowd all laughed. That kind of private moment shared that night just seemed special and sincere. There are a lot of artists that will mechanically post on social media, but this felt even more immediate and intimate that he was sharing a very important and emotional moment in his life with complete strangers. Then he dedicated the song Better Man to his father and like all of their other shows, the crowd sang the first verse at an impressive and heartfelt volume. That is really the exact moment when you realized how much this band meant to every single person in the building. Pearl Jam songs had gotten these people through some rough times, happy times and even through their day to day lives in the background. I am not a fan of the phrase, “the band (sound) of a generation,” but Pearl Jam has no other worthy description. It is something you can only experience at a live show, or if you lived through the 90’s.
It was impressive to me to see almost all of Jobing.com Arena filled to capacity. It was a task to actually find the few empty seats that existed in the flood of people. Pearl Jam was still energetic as ever even though the band has a lot of mellow songs. What impressed me the most about the show was the audience. The crowd was radiating a joyful energy throughout the entire show and it made me reminiscent of concerts from sixteen years ago. A mob of people that were all there to have a good time, enjoy some great music and share a general love of whatever band they were all there to experience. That moment gave me chills and made me really miss that time in my life, but also glad I was able to experience all of those incredible musical moments that happened in the 90’s. Granted I wish I could have been born about five years earlier to fully experience that era, but I made the most of it at my age and will never forget it. It is amazing to think that Pearl Jam has been around for as long as they have and can still sell out almost an entire arena. There are not many artists today that I believe will be able to accomplish that same feat fifteen years down the line.
Set List Picture Source from Pearl Jam's official Twitter page.
Two encores, almost three hours of music, personal stories, insights into the band and the mellow acoustic sessions made this concert one of the few I will always remember. Having been to hundreds and hundreds of shows, they all blend together now which is a bit disappointing to me. Pearl Jam is one of the few that will stand on its own in my mash potato memory.