One for the Road – Pearl Jam – Greenville, SC – 4/16/2016

PJ Carol - 6

Eddie Vedder & Pearl Jam – Bon Secours Wellness Arena – Greenville, SC – 4/16/2016

All photos courtesy of Carol Spagnuola / Written By Robert Forte

The members of Pearl Jam may all have reached the mid-century mark in terms of age but both their material and live performance seem to be aging even more gracefully than the wine Eddie Vedder often carries with him on stage as the band is about to launch into that evening’s particular performance.

Pearl Jam is not currently out touring in support of a new record as their latest studio release still remains the critically as well as fan community well received Lighting Bolt record put out back in 2013.

Instead the band is yet again simply embarking on one of their annual musical sojourns that their fans have not only come to expect but have most waiting by their smart-phones, tablets and perhaps tomato cans attached to strings eagerly anticipating the current year’s tour dates so that they can begin making their travel plans and formulating excuses to give to their bosses for some last minute unexpected days off from work.

Few souls probably could have predicated that nearly 25 years ago when Pearl Jam released their debut album Ten that helped not only launch the grunge movement but put the final spike in the heart of the hair metal craze, that the band would  become a modern day version of a touring Grateful Dead.

The parallel may not be there musically but in terms of sheer devotion that borders much closer to worship than fandom and the fact that droves of 40 and 50 somethings’ plan their lives around which and how may Pearl Jams shows they can attend in any particular year, there seems to be more similarities between Pearl Jam and Dead fans than one might initially consider.

Despite having somewhat of “jam band” type of following it’s paramount to recognize from the outset that Pearl Jam has and forever will be a rock n’ roll band.

Should one need any evidence to support the aforementioned statement I submit for consideration the band’s 33-song, nearly 3-hour long set in that included not one but two epic encores to serve as proof that Pearl Jam doesn’t just carry the rock n’ roll torch, they’re burning it bright enough for astronauts to see from the dark side of the moon.

For just the second time in the band’s live performance history Pearl Jam delighted the crowd by performing one of their records in its entirety, this time choosing to run through every track off one of their most memorable records, 1993’s Vs.

Pearl Jam offered up inspiring versions of such classics off of Vs. including “Animal”, “Daughter” “Dissident” “Go” as well as a playful take on a song Vedder referenced that he disliked when he was initially tooling around with it on guitar but that Stone Gossard thought was “wicked”, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”.

By the time Pearl Jam took their first break of the evening the band had already played an incredible 19 songs. ripping through all of Vs., four songs of of Lighting Bolt, two off of Vitalogy, one of which being “Corduroy” (which had served as the night’s opening salvo) as well as a singular track off of 1998’s Yield “Do the Evolution”.

The blistering pace of the first set gave way to a bit more initially subdued back half of the performance that included the band giving some personal fan shout-outs that included a dedication to an individual battling cancer, “Future Days” and another in “Present Tense” to an audience member that was requesting they play “Inside Job” to remember the victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Pearl Jam’s first encore came in the form of their take on the Pink Floyd classic, “Comfortably Numb” which saw Mike McCready unleash his inner David Gilmour on the track’s signature guitar solo.

Following an electric version of “Porch”, which wound up being only one of two songs off of Pearl Jam’s debut record Ten to make it into the evening’s set list, the band took their second and final break off the evening.

Upon returning to the stage for one last time Vedder and company had a trick up their sleeves for the fans seated behind the main stage, all of whom had a mostly obstructed view of the band all evening long.

The boys in Pearl Jam chose to kick off the final encore by turning around to those fans who had been staring at the band’s backsides for over two hours to play the Wayne Cochran cover the band had recorded in 1999 for the charity record No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees, “Last Kiss”.

At one point during the song McCready jumped into the stands to get up close and personal with some clearly awe-struck fans.  At the song’s conclusion the band’s lead guitarist also reached into his pockets to dish out a handful of  picks to some of the faithful lucky enough to literally  be in the right place at the right time.

Pearl Jam closed out the night’s festivities by offering up fans a few more favorites including “Betterman”, a hard-charging take on “Alive” which had the entire arena on the edge of their seats singing every word of the song back to their heroes up on stage and by also taking a run at the Who classic “Baba O’Riley”.

After nearly a three-hour marathon of a show the evening concluded with a performance of song that never actually made it onto an official Pearl Jam release but one that seems to continue hold a special place in many of their fans’ hearts, “Yellow Ledbetter”.

Pearl Jam continues to be one of the very few rock bands capable of not just continuing to deliver genre defining records but dynamic, diverse and coliseum shaking rock shows that give their fan base so much fuel for what appears to be an unquenchable thirst for each and every note of music the band offers up for to them to digest.

Last Saturday’s concert by Pearl Jam at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolna helped serve notice to the band’s mass of followers that they’re showing no signs of slowing down at any point in the near term and that if anything, they have a decade or more of live greatness by the Seattle quintet to look forward to.

The show also cemented the fact that few if any rock bands touring today can’t even come close to holding a candle to the live musical acumen, energy and quality of performance Eddie, Stone, Mike, Matt, Jeff display each and every time they hit the lighted stage to perform with one another.  Well played Pearl Jam, well played.

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